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Audio Collections

Rich collections of audiobooks and music CDs can be found in many school and pubic libraries. In addition, digital collections can be accessed through library networks and the Internet.

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Go to Audio Archive. Check out the wide range of free audio online.

chickensA popular trend is the combination of an audio format with other media formats. For instance, instructional audio recordings often come packaged with booksand posters.

Many children's books come with a CD containing narrative, music, and other sound elements.

For instance, Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton contains the book and CD of an imaginary musical revue. The first half of the book contains lyrics and illustrations, while the second half includes musical notations for each song. The cast includes famous acts such as Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.

Audio Formats

Analog technology began when Thomas Edison first recorded sound waves on a piece of tin. Later this analog wave was stored on vinyl records (called mechanical recording) and tape including reel-to-reel and 8-track (called magnetic recording). You'll still find vinyl records and audio tapes in some schools and libraries.

From CD to MP3s, we now live in a digital world. Digital recording technology has high fidelity and perfect reproduction (also called optical disc technology). In other words, the sound is very close to the original and it sounds the same every time you play it. Analog waves are converted into streams of numbers and stored on the compact disk. CD players then convert the data back to an analog wave that's heard through amplified speakers. The audio files (MP3, WAV) found on the Internet are stored as digital audio files.

Streaming vs Downloading

writeDownloaded audio is copied from a remote web server onto a computer hard drive, MP3 player, CD, DVD, or other storage device. Although many types of files can be downloaded including .au, .wav., and .midi, the MP3 format is by far the most popular for music files. High quality and small file size are two of the reasons. Downloaded audio files can be placed on portable devices such as phones and MP3 players.

Streamed audio is also downloaded from a remote web server, but the files are only temporarily stored while they are being played. As the audio data arrives it is buffered for a few seconds and then playback begins. As the audio is playing, more data is constantly arriving (or streaming). As long as you continue receiving a constant stream of audio data, you should hear uninterrupted audio. Think of the buffer as a "open funnel" that is continually being topped off with more data. As long as there is data flow into the funnel, it will continue to pour out of the tube... and be played through the computer. In other words, as long as there is data in the buffer you will continue to hear sound. Unfortunately the buffer "funnel" can empty due to congestion on the Internet which interrupts the receiving of data. But if you have a strong internet connection, streaming audio is generally not a problem.

Also with streaming there are no audio files left behind on your computer. The audio data is only there temporarily and then is discarded; whereas a downloaded audio file can be copied, stored, and played over and over again.

Great Audio for Youth

Begin your exploration with best-selling and award-winning audio programs.

Go to Children's Notable Lists from ALSC. Look for the Notable Children's Recordings.
Go to Best Music from Common Sense Media.

Music Collections

Young people are interested in music; they switch their phone ringtone to a favorite tune, load their iPod with thousands of songs, and download MP3 cuts online. They know where to find music downloads or catch the latest music videos. Their music interests are often in sharp contrast to content found in many libraries and multimedia presentations at school, where music and audio are often afforded little attention. However, the auditory sensory channel is very powerful and music and sound warrant adequate consideration.

Music can set the mood. Almost everyone is a music consumer in some fashion and to some degree. We listen to music on the radio and via satellite. We purchase and play music CDs or MP3s. Music is ever-present on television programs. One can hardly imagine a commercial, movie, or play without some type of music.

Buffalo CafeWhen people think of music, rap, hip hop, country, or other popular styles may come to mind. However schools and libraries will find other lesser known styles equally interesting. Folk music, swing, jazz, classical, and music of various cultures are interesting to explore. They provide opportunities for patrons to experience a wide range of music without the need to make personal purchases.

Jack Gladstone is an award-winning Native American - German singer and songwriter. His songs provide great connections to American history on topics such as the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Louisiana Purchase, and Hudson Bay Company. Listen to Buffalo Cafe, one of his most popular songs, at YouTube.

The Value of Music in the Library

Some librarians think of a music collection as an afterthought rather than an integral part of the library. They may say "if we have extra money at the end of the year, we'll buy some music." Or, they consider music a personal item like magazines or paperbacks that individuals buy, not libraries. Others don't want the hassle of deciding which music to buy or are concerned about explicit language. Many school librarians don't view music as part of the curriculum. They can be heard saying that "everything must align with the standards."

Why support a music collection in a school, academic, public, church, or any other kind of library? Music has been linked to wellness, happiness, and longevity. Music is one of the seven basic human intelligences, yet we often do little to encourage its potential. Music can be thought of as an application of math, science, history, social studies, foreign language, reading, and physical education -- all put together. When people talk about the need to make learning meaningful or develop interdisciplinary connections, music is an excellent example. Regardless of whether you're thinking about music for leisure or music for learning, there's research to support your program.

Music Subscription Services

listenAlthough music CDs continue to be purchased by most libraries, music downloads have gained ground. The advantage of downloads is that the library doesn't need to try to keep up on the latest trends. Instead, a wide range of options are available for listeners.

Freegal is probably the most popular downloadable music service. Library holders can generally download around three songs per week. The MP3 files work on most devices such as iPhones and iPods.

The Freegal service has lots of resources for kids such as Alvin and the Chipmunks, Dan Zanes and Friends, and Shel Silverstein. It also has the popular KidzBop series.

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Go to Freegal Help from the Santa Clara County Library. This website provides lots of information about how the system works.

Alexander Street Press provides award-winning music collections in the categories of Classical, American, World, and Jazz.

Go to the Montgomery County Public Libraries. Notice that they provide access to both Freegal and Alexander Street music.

Oxford Music Online is a great example of a music database. It contains thousands of entries and hundreds of music samples.

Children's Recordings

freeA wide range of children's music is available to nurture a passion for music.

Go to You Are Special by Fred Rogers. Do you remember this song? It was one of my favorites. Do some searching and see if you can find a song from your childhood.

ClassicsFree to Be... You and Me by Marlo Thomas is a classic example of a children's album that made a lasting impression. Schoolhouse Rock is another. The latter is based on forty-one three-minute educational cartoons developed between 1973 and 1985.

Children's BooksFarkle and Friends by John Lithgow is one of many CDs that are spin-offs of books.

FreeChildren's Movies. Ask a group of children, or even adults to hum or sing a Disney song and you may get dozens of different replies from Jungle Book and Mary Poppins to Little Mermaid.

Children's TV. Music from popular television programs such as Sesame Street are very popular with children. The soundtracks to movies like Toy Story are currently popular with children. Disney Junior characters like Sofia the First and Disney Princesses are always popular.

Singers. Canadian singer Raffi has been entertaining children since the 1970s with fun musical arrangements and vocals. He encourages children to sing, dance, and play. Tom Chapin uses a combination of rock, jazz, blues, and folk to entertain children. Australia's Wiggles entertain preschoolers.

FreeFolk songs are always popular with children including songs by Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, Peter, Paula, and Mary, and Pete Seeger.

Babies. There are even CDs designed to be played to pregnant women and newborns including lullaby collections, classical music, and songs with babies in the title.

Musical Styles. Children's versions of classical, jazz, and other popular musical styles can be found. For example, Peter & the Wolf and Nutcracker are favorites of children. Country Goes Raffi is a country album by Raffi.

bopPopular Music. Looking for music that will fly off the shelf? Buy the Kidz Bop Kids albums. These compilation albums feature kids performing current popular hits.

Music Selection

As you read the reviews and listen to previews, remember that the music collections libraries vary tremendously. However they should all be rooted in the mission of the center. Most libraries must balance the interests and requests of patrons with the need for a comprehensive collection that has breadth and depth. On the other hand, you can't rely on your personal preferences either. The key is to know your community. This includes not only regular visitors, but potential patrons who may not normally come to the library. For example, you might increase music in your Latin section to appeal to diverse patrons.

Go to Music for Children from the Seattle Public Library. Browse their quick links.
Go to Music for Kids from the Denver Public Library. Check out the options.
Go to Kids/Family Music from Corvallis Benton County Public Library. Notice how they organize resources using libguides.

singerTime-Life and Rhino Records are well-known for their collected works. For example, John Denver's albums are available in a collection of CDs. Also you've probably seen the TV commercials for the Best of Singers and Songwriters of different decades.

Check out what other libraries are doing.

Music Resources

Keep up on the latest trends at popular online sites. Most of these websites have a kids and teens section.

Go to Billboard Kids Album. Notice the current "hot" albums for youth.

There are a number of organization that are connected to the music industry. These can be useful in following the trends and licenses.

Obtaining the rights to use music and sound sometimes involves more than one permission; obtaining rights from the publisher / copyright holder for lyrics, the musical score, and the performer(s). The following article provides relevant information:

How to Get Permission to Use a Copyrighted Song at eHow 
Introduction to the Permissions Process at Copyright and Fair Use, Stanford University Libraries

All the regulations and restrictions can be daunting to students, librarians, and educators wanting to utilize published audio material. Issues on music copyright are an excellent topic for investigation, debate, and learning. Read Write Think has an excellent lesson unit (Grade 9-12) titled Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music.

Sound Exchange is a U.S. organization created to collect performance royalties for sound recording copyright owners and artists; collect the revenue stream created by 1995's Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act (DPRA). The DPRA gave record labels and other sound recording copyright owners a second chance to collect performance royalties from their recordings. Sound Exchange is an independent nonprofit performance rights organization that currently represents over 1,000 record companies, their more than 3000 labels and thousands of artists united in receiving a fair price for the licensing of their music for digital transmissions.

Experiment with Samples

Youth are still developing their musical tastes. Expose them to a wide range of options.

Music Websites

Many websites provide access to free and public domain music.

There are many websites that are sponsored by music agencies. Be careful because they aren't are legitimate services.

There are a few websites specifically geared to kids.

Streaming Music Radio and Shared Music Services

A popular trend in music listening is streaming radio and shared online services.

There are a number of options for listening to streaming radio. The general services work like traditional radio stations where users listen to a set program. However, increasingly radio options include choices of channel with embedded advertising.

Pandora. Pandora began as a social media experiment, but quickly became a popular streaming site. Music is determined using the Music Genome Project that collects information about what people like and dislike.

iTunes Radio. The latest entry into this area is iTunes Radio. Users enter a genre or favorite group and a station is created with songs related to that topic. This free, streaming radio is available through the iTune software found in iPhones, iPads, and other Mac products. Users have the option to purchase music they like. iTunes Match is an ad-free subscription service option.

It's a great option for kids because you can create a Kidz Bop Radio, Disney Radio, or a Raffi Radio.

Spotify. The Spotify service involves file sharing. Advertisers are used to offset the cost of paying revenue to music companies. This service plays emphasis on social networking and sharing favorite songs.

Many other services such as and Slacker are also popular. TuneIn has a children's section.

Some schools have their own radio stations. Check out WNAS from New Albany High.

Repurposing Music Clips

Many teens enjoy building their own music collections using free clips found online. If you have access to Apple's Garageband, you can create original music segments. The following resources are a great place to start. Some are free, others have a small charge.

Spoken Arts

In the Fiction section of this course we discussed audiobooks. In this section, we'll talk about other types of spoken arts works.

vinlThere are a wide range of spoken word materials. Spoken word media mainly consist of a person or persons speaking; i.e., storytelling, poetry, public speeches, etc. The spoken words are sometimes accompanied by incidental musical or other sounds.

Many of the best-known examples are recorded radio programs. For example, early radio dramas can be found on CD as well as online.

Most of the current materials as well as the archived programs on National Public Radio are available online.

Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean is a popular CBC program. The programs available on radio, as podcasts, as well as CD. They're great for long car trips.

Categories of Spoken Word Works

Beginning in 1959, the annual Grammy Awards have selected a Best Spoken Word Album. Sometimes called audio art, recordings may include spoken word, sound, and music. For the purpose of this website, we've placed the spoken word audiobooks on another page. A few of the options are listed below:

SidewalkChildren's. From classical music for babies to books-on-tape for teens, there many audio resources for kids. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is a well-known example. Some match the books and others are musical versions.

Comedy. Comedians like Bill Cosby are known for their comedy audio recordings. You’ll also want to explore comedic groups such as Monty Python that combine skips and songs.

Exercise. Many people enjoy listening to specialized audio while they walk, run, or ride a bike. Some play music and others contain motivational talks. For example, Yoga Zone: Music for Yoga Practice by Windham Hill provides music to practicing yoga.

Historical Connections. Many teachers like to use music from specific time periods to bring learning alive. Check out titles like Lewis and Clark: Sounds of Discover,The Civil War – Traditional American Songs and Instrumental Music Featured in the Film by Ken Burns, and Down from the Mountain and O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

speechHistorical Works. There are many interesting materials from specific time periods. For example, The Beat Generation is a box set that contains music, poetry, and speeches from the beat era including people such as Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Famous speeches, poetry, and storytelling are only a few of the audio materials of interest.

Sample some of the MP3 recordings at Poems and Presentations: Audio Selections at Digital Beats: Jack Kerouac, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Every library should have a copy of Great Speeches of the 20th Century. This box set of four CDs contains well-known as well as lesser known speeches from politicians, scientists, sports figures, and more. Speech collections are available for people such as Winston Churchill, Walter Cronkite, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy.

Oyez: US Supreme Court Media provides over 2,000 recordings of oral arguments before the US Supreme Court. Note that The Oyez Project claims a limited copyright in these recordings; the recordings are licensed under a Creative Commons agreement that allows you to copy, adapt, distribute, and transmit these works as long as you give the Oyez Project credit and you don’t use the works for commercial purposes.

Instructional Audio. Whether you want to learn to dance, play the guitar, speak Spanish, you can find “how-to” instructional audios to help. Learning to play instruments such as the guitar, piano, harmonica, keyboard and others often contain a book, sheet music, charts, and sometimes even the instrument itself. Most popular languages are available including Spanish, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even Yiddish. Other types of instruction such as learning to play cards games or win at gambling are also popular.

Interviews. One can listen to interviews of people such as writers, musicians, authors. From Christopher Lydon and Radio Open Source, here's an interview (Jan 2011) of Isabel Wilkerson on the Great Migration (MP3 33 minutes), Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (Part 2, Real Media 18:50 minutes).

Visit 1968 Narrators at The Whole World Was Watching: An Oral History of 1968, a joint project between South Kingstown High School and Brown University's Scholarly Technology Group. There you can find audio recordings of oral history interviews.

KeillorPoetry. Recorded poems by poets such as Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou are a great way to enjoy poetry. In addition, compilations are also available. For example, Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers is a two-CD collection of African American poetry spanning the 20th century. Poetry can be brought to life by the right reader. Closed On Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allen Poe is an example. The Raven is read by spooky Christopher Walken.

Radio Anthologies. Classic radio programs are still popular. Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon stories from Prairie Home Companion is another example of a series that originated on Public Radio. Listen to excepts from Lake Wobegon Loyalty Days or the Audio Highlights (Mixture of spoken word and musical performance) found on the Prairie Home Companion website.

Visit and explore to listen to old radio shows of the past; programs include adventure, crime, pulp, sci-fi, noir and commercials.

Self-Help Audio. Since the 1960s business executives have listened to promotional and sales tactics audiotapes. The area of self-help has grown in recent years. From Dr. Phil’s advice to self-help guru’s who will help with weight loss, stress, and financing, many options are available. Check out Sound Body, Sound Mind by Andrew Weil. It combines spoken word, sounds, and music. Some materials are based on books, while other are only available in an audio format.

Streaming News and Information Radio

Many traditional radio stations have downloads and streaming audio available.

Sounds and Sound Effects

The world around us has all kinds of interesting sounds. Let's explore some of the options available.

Visit and explore the Freesound Project, a collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps that are released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license. PacDV also allows use of sound effects from their web site free of charge in video, film, audio and multimedia productions (but NOT for re-sell or posting on a web site for download).

Sound Effects. Whether it’s spooky sounds for a Halloween party, silly answering machine messages, or general sound effects, there are a wide range of audio materials available. Sound effects CDs may have hundreds of sounds to explore. Some CDs specialize in particular sounds such as cartoons.

Nature Sounds. From songbirds and moose calls to babbling brooks and ocean waves, nature sound audio materials have gained in popularity. Some people like to listen to the sounds of nature while they read, relax, or sleep. The Thunderstorms recording is part of the Echoes of Nature series that also includes similar titles such as Bayous, Frog Chorus, Ocean Waves, and Rainforest. There are many possibilities.

Songbirds: Field and Meadow and USA and Canada: A Selection of Common Birds Songs contain great bird calls.

Environmental and nature sound recordings are often found in the New Age section.

Listen to sample sounds from Song of the Humpback Whale.

Digital Audio Collections

Many digital audio collections are available online. While some are spoken word or music, others combine different types of audio works.

Go to British Library Sounds and explore 50,000 recordings of music, spoken word, and human and natural environments.

Teens are increasingly interested in listening to podcasts. From interviews to short stories, a wide range of resources are available. Many websites provide the opportunity to subscribe to podcasts. Others allow users to download batches of audio.

Go to Podcasts for Teens from The Seattle Public Library. Notice their offerings.

Digital collections are a great resource for teaching and learning. Use podcasts, music or other type of audio to generate questions. For instance the Science NetLinks podcast page contains dozens of high-quality articles to jumpstart student questions.

Let's explore websites with audio collections.

Historical & Interviews



Radio Archives


Speeches and Interviews

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