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Library CD loans plummet – "Kids don't even know what they are"

Compact discs are officially old news, if you ask Finnish library staff at least. While CDs only seem to interest older folks nowadays, sheet music and music-related books have retained their popularity.

Mies kuuntelee musiikkia.
Heart-shaped box: Younger people may not know what it is like to study a CD's liner notes. Image: Milla Vahtiala / Yle

New technology ousts old technology. In the case of music, direct streaming services have caused compact discs to be phased out almost to oblivion.

This can be seen not only in actual CD sales but in the number of CDs borrowed by library-goers. Librarian and musician Tuula Amberla remembers a time when people of all ages would flock to use a library's sound systems to play a music disc. Much has changed.

"Kids and adolescents don't even know what a compact disc is anymore," Amberla says. "I suggested a recently published CD to a 9-year-old girl the other day. She asked me what it was and where does it go."

However, music itself has not lost its touch among the populace. Rauma library chief Karri Hara says that music-related books still draw people's attention. And one type of product is not even readily available online.

"People still borrow sheet music packs and books, there's been no change in that in that last five years at least, even though CDs have gone down by almost 40 percent," says Hara.

2012 was the first year that music recording loans fell under 1 million for the first time in a decade. In 2015 only some 630,000 recordings were borrowed.

Value in music

But the vast collections of music that libraries across the country have accumulated are special. The music section of the future will surely be diminished in size, but library warehouses can house rare gems.

In the modern era, if a song can't be found on Spotify or Youtube it can be hard to trace.

"And few people seem to know that anyone can copy library CDs for their own personal use, onto their laptop for instance," says Hara. "These dusty discs are worth something yet."

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