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An Experiment in Colorado

You’ve probably seen the attitude before—clueless people who say “It’s a big facility that’s a relic from another age.

You’ve probably seen the attitude before—clueless people who say “It’s a big facility that’s a relic from another age. Who needs it? I can do it all at home on my computer.” They’re not talking about a recording studio, though; they’re talking about your local library.

If you follow us online, then you know we’ve blogged and posted many times about libraries—specifically, the growing trend of public libraries with their own recording studios.

Faced with changing demographics, Google and yes, ignorant attitudes like the one above, many libraries have begun reinventing themselves for the Digital Age by adding Maker Spaces: tech-savvy facilities that provide everything from graphic-arts software to 3D printers to simple recording spaces.

The question is, at what point does one of these library studios start affecting other facilities in the region? One community in Colorado may start finding out this month—but I’ll get to that in a minute.

There’s a lot of library studios out there; typically, they don’t have a lot of space or money, so often the room is a re-purposed area (The Studio Formerly Known As Storage Closet), sporting typical musician-level recording equipment. Take the Central Library’s studio in St. Louis, MO. The fledgling facility, started in May, 2014, is decked out with an Apple laptop, MIDI keyboard, mid-price KRK monitors, an Allen & Heath ZED-14 mixer and a Blue Microphones Yeti USB mic. That level of investment makes sense for a library—it’s equipment that is both easily understood and easily replaced if necessary, given that the public will have its hands all over it.

But what if a library aimed a bit higher? That’s what’s happening in Grand Junction, Colo., this month, as the main branch of the Mesa County Library opens 970West Studio—a $1.35 million, specially built facility that broke ground in late June. Key to the 3,000-square-foot building will be a 654-square-foot main room and a 436-square-foot control room, as well as a 245-square-foot space for an artist in residence, storage space for equipment and materials, and parking for 10 vehicles.

While some studios in the region and the local chamber of commerce have said they’re all for it, not everyone is excited about a free facility of that magnitude. Gary Smith, owner of Gary Smith Productions, told local paper The Daily Sentinel, “It just bothers me that a governmental agency would be getting into the business of competing with a local business,” adding, “…when you open it up to bands and young musicians that want to record, those people normally would go into a studio to do that and pay for that service. You cross a line when you go from being a public operation to a commercial operation.”

Whether it crosses the line remains to be seen, but library director Joseph Sanchez noted on the library’s website that “This studio gives the library an opportunity to create unique, valuable content of local importance….” Much of it will be for 970West Digital, an online multimedia collection akin to public-access TV; offerings include interviews with local veterans and videos on how to tie fishing lures.

While anyone will be able to record in the studio, the library will retain the right to catalog everything created there and make it available to its 75,000 patrons. That alone will surely give commerce-minded musicians pause—perhaps enough to make them head to a local pro facility instead.

Broadly speaking, the pro audio industry can only benefit from library studios, whether spurring business for local pro facilities or equipment sales to library patrons inspired to create their own home recording spaces. Whether 970West—hands down, the most ambitious library studio we’ve ever heard of—can coexist with its local recording community is anyone’s guess, but it will be interesting to find out.