Dunn Library giving away CD collection amidst renovations


Jenna Prather

Bailey Petersen going through the CDs in Dunn Library

by Jenna Prather, Staff Reporter

With streaming continuing to dominate the music industry, Dunn Library has decided to give away its CD collection to students, staff and faculty.

With technology’s many advancements over the years, music has advanced with it. Vinyl, cassette tapes, CDs, iPods and YouTube have all once dominated the music world by means of listening to music. Now, streaming platforms like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music are replacing the need for physical music.

But in 2021, according to a data report by MCR Data, U.S. vinyl LP sales went up 51.4% and U.S. CD sales increased 1.1%. However, this is nothing compared to the over 90% of Americans who use streaming services in a typical week, and no one buying physical music is rushing to their local library to check them out.

“We have not had them circulated much – two or three or four a year, for the last several years,” Cyd Dyer, college librarian/archivist/professor said. “We’re working towards the renovation that’s going to happen in the library. So, we were looking at all of our collections to see what was used and what wasn’t used. We’ve got the general books, the oversized books, the scores, the journals and we even kept the DVDs. But, CDs don’t really have a place.”

Today, owning physical music is more of a hobby than a necessity. Therefore, Dunn Library decided to make their CD collection available for the Simpson community.

“I reached out to the music department that has their own CD collection too. And they were not even interested in taking it,” Dyer said.

“We sent an email around to all the music faculty to see if they had use for them and so anyone who needed it could have gotten those individually. But people don’t use CDs anymore,” John Benoit, department chair and professor of music said. “I know that in my teaching, all the music I use, I have everything on my laptop. It’s all on iTunes. I have embedded audio in PowerPoint, I just press a button. So the need for the CD just isn’t there.”

“I thought, well, I could just throw everything away, but I can’t do that,” Dyer said. “So, I just asked the academic dean, John Woell, if it would be okay to give them away. And he said, ‘sure.’ So, I tried to figure out a way to include everybody in taking CDs should they choose to. So, when we put out the announcement in the campus pulse, the first people over here were faculty.”

Brian Smith, adjunct faculty, said that getting a collection of the CDs “made his Friday.”

“I heard about it when I escorted my wife over to a meeting she was having and one of the people showed up and apologized for being late and he had a shoebox full of CDs,” Smith said. “I’d walked by before and seen a signup, but I didn’t realize that meant they were giving them away.”

And is it any surprise that the faculty, who grew up with physical music, were some of the first to jump on the chance to add to their collections?

“I even had one faculty member who was a student here, and he found three CDs that he used to check out all the time,” Dyer said.

“I started noticing about eight to 10 years ago that students weren’t using CDs. They were finding everything on YouTube,” Benoit said. “So, our students quit using CDs before the faculty.”

Now, many traditional students probably don’t even remember a time before YouTube pioneered the ability to stream music through their accessible music videos and creator-made lyric videos.

“Spotify is great, Amazon Music is great, but sometimes you just want the music in the sequence that it was on an album,” Dyer said.

“There’s also something in that it’s kind of fun,” Smith said. “You could sit and look at the album art and read about it. And even with the CDs, most of them have little information things inside them, which I think is cool. Not to mention that seeing them there is kind of a memory cue. Like you see that and go, ‘Oh, that’d be cool. I want to listen to that right now.’”

“I’m old enough that I started teaching before CDs,” Benoit said. “I just had to use records, and you’d have to drop the needle and try to find the spot on the record where the music was, and that was a pain. I also used cassette tapes, which you could queue up, but it took forever if you had a second queue. So when CDs came up, for me, that was just great because I could just go right to the track, right to that second I needed to demonstrate something in class.”

Dunn has a large selection of genres to choose from and a list that categorizes them by a certain number combination. Anything from Broadway to Blues to Biblical.

“I took a wide variety,” Smith said. “Everything from Spike Jones to West Side Story to Frank Sinatra.”

But not all music genres are available for picking. The extensive collection of opera will be donated to the Des Moines Metro Opera.

The music department has not yet decided whether or not it will be doing something similar with its CD collection. 

“We just haven’t gotten around to it,” Benoit said. “You spend so much time getting this stuff that you’re kind of afraid to just get rid of it. But, on the other hand, I don’t see us going back.”

The CDs in the library will be available until spring break, and then they will be getting rid of what is left.

“I hope this brings joy to some people,” Dyer said. “I hope it brings good memories back to some people. I hope people are reminded about this important format that’s still around.”

“Thank you to the folks in the library for providing it. I’ve now got enough to keep me distracted for quite some time,” Smith said.