MusicLandria: A library drumming to its own beat

This article was originally published for my Medium profile on Nov. 29, 2016. Featured photo courtesy of Buddy Hale.

While living in Berkeley, Buddy Hale became a frequent visitor at the Tool Lending Library, a place where people can check out power tools at no cost. Now the senior business major at Sacramento State is operating a similar version of the concept with girlfriend Rachel Freund — but for music devotees — out of his Land Park home, called “Library of MusicLandria,” a name derived from the ancient Library of Alexandria of Egypt.

What is Library of MusicLandria and how is it similar to Tool Lending Library?
The idea started about three to four years ago. Basically, anyone who signs up to use the library can check out a musical instrument for totally free. We don’t charge anything for two weeks. And if they want it for more time, they can renew the item for another two weeks before having to bring it back. If they don’t, they’d be charged $5 a day per item. We’re not trying to make money out of this thing so we do everything we can to let them know the item is due.

You’re not trying to make money out of the library?
I wasn’t born to have a gene to want to make a million dollars ever. I’d rather build and enrich the community I’m in. My emphasis (at Sac State) is entrepreneurship but I’ve done my best to add social to that because I’m not necessarily interested in starting your typical for-profit businesses. That’s where my passion and interests are.

How are you going to make a living from it? Have you ever thought about that?
This is where nonprofit can get a little bit confusing, especially if you don’t study it. Most nonprofit organizations get grants if they’re lucky. The organizations that get grants will write out a salary for their employees and a certain percentage of it has to go to “furthering the mission.”

(Photo courtesy of Buddy Hale)

Who borrows from the library and what kind of instruments do you lend out?
We had people from babies who couldn’t even talk to music teachers who check out a bunch of instruments for his classes because the school that he teaches at doesn’t have funding for music. Also, local musicians for sure, especially when they play a concert and need a pedal or an amp. We also got stage lightings and recording gears.

Sacramento News & Review recently dubbed the library an “Uber of Instruments.” Is that accurate?
I think they’re very different actually. We don’t go to pick people up. What we’re trying to do is to empower people to be creative and give them resources to explore themselves and their own identity. Libraries are still all about books even if most are becoming digitized, which I think is great because of the archival aspect of it — preserving our history and information. There’s a power to that.

Is that the main purpose of MusicLandria: to preserve music?
Exactly. Preserving musical instruments. I’m so crazy about that. I think about an instrument that exists today or 20 years ago may not be available 20 or 30 years from now, and that’s a pretty scary thought. With everything becoming digital, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of instruments just disappear and we won’t have access to them anymore. I have a very clear image in my head of this massive structure that is sort of akin to what I assumed the Library of Alexandria looked like.

How much have you spent, personally, to build up the catalog?
I don’t want to say, but a decent amount. I’ve definitely contributed a ton of my own resources into building it. I’ve donated every instrument that I owned to it and that was like around 60 different things.

You said you wanted more people with serious business mindsets for a board of directors, have you tried to look for them here at Sac State
Kind of but not in a dedicated way.

Why not?
I feel like I’m a bit too busy when I’m on campus to build strong working relationships (with peers). I can potentially force it to work, but I’m a bit busy right now and time makes it harder.

Has any local music store reached out and condemned your idea for potentially putting them out of business?
I was actually a little worried about that when I first started out. But when borrowers find what they like and say that they would go out to buy the instrument themselves, that’s when we’re going to direct them to some local retailers. I don’t think we’re taking any business from them. Instead, we’re giving them a ton of business because that’s where we also get our instruments for the library.

How do you think the library is contributing to the Sacramento music scene?
We had so many responses from people who have used the library so it’s totally inspiring. We already got a big impact on educators. And that’s our mission: providing access to instruments so people can explore themselves. I think that the more people know about Library of MusicLandria, the more musical the city will become.

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