In a small subsection of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, junior architecture major Juleesa Jolley and her visiting friend, Dionne Whitby, rifled through crates of old records.
“This is a must,” Whitby said to Jolley, pulling out a vinyl record of the can-can and adding it to her growing stack of classical tunes. She was half-kidding, but when everything in the room is selling for a few dollars or less, even something as random as a recording of an old dance hall classic can become essential.
“I’m just trying to find some little gold nuggets,” Whitby said. “We have a little bit of Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chopin. I was like, ‘Why not? It’s one dollar.'”
In conjunction with The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s fourth annual NextNOW Fest on Friday and Saturday, the building’s library hosted an annual rummage sale composed mostly of donated books, sheet music, records, VHS tapes, CDs, audio cassettes and records that the library is unable to add to its collection.
“It’s just a way of getting things to good homes, not throwing things in a landfill,” said library head Stephen Henry. “The idea is [donors] are trying to donate to a good cause — when we sell things, all the money goes back into our collections budget, so the donors are still contributing to the collections of the library, more or less.”
A steady stream of students and community members made their way in and out of the sale, rummaging through a hodgepodge of performance-related content. One table showcased a VHS about New Orleans brass bands, a Tracy Chapman record and more than 100 CDs entirely in Hebrew.
For some students, the sale acted as an all-encompassing hub for shared interests, particularly classical music that others wouldn’t go out of their way to listen to.
“Someone walked past my girlfriend looking at something and went, ‘Oh, Rachmaninoff!’ That’s my reaction, too,” joked Dan O’Neill, a senior geographic information systems and musical performance major. “You really don’t [hear that around campus much].”
When it began in 2014, the sale collected about $6,000, which Henry attributed to the large collection of pop, rock and jazz vinyl records that were available then. Those quickly sold out, and revenue has decreased since then — last year the sale raised about $3,500.
Still, Henry said the money raised has been instrumental in the library’s fund for special collections, like scores, audio recordings and plays. Plus, as Jolley, Whitby and O’Neill all attested, the event is a lot of fun.
“It’s not even about the money at some point — it’s just a great outreach event,” Henry said. “People are happy. They appreciate being able to get this stuff. I can tell people are having a ball sorting through the crates.”
Henry recalled a woman Friday buying a stack of Victrola records — a bulkier and now much lesser-known predecessor to vinyl records. Not many people still listen to them, but Henry said “it was this perfect find” to add to her collection.
“Sometimes people will come with a stack this high and tell me how excited they are about something they found,” Henry said. “Just seeing how happy people are and how much they enjoy sorting through the stuff is very gratifying.”