Halifax Central Library’s Free Recording Studios

alisonAlison Froese-Stoddard is the Technology Librarian at the Halifax Central Library, supervising the Media & Tech staff, and helping to plan music and technology programming for all ages at the library.  Photo: Alison tests the recording studio’s green screen.

Could you describe the Central Library’s recording studios and the equipment available to use?

csmhgwtwgaakujvWe have two recording studios as well as 4 iMac computers in our studio space. Each studio is equipped with an iMac computer with editing and recording software, an audio interface, a MIDI keyboard and condenser mic. Studio B is a little larger and also features a green screen along the back wall for video use. We have a wide range of instruments and equipment that you can also use for free in the space including guitars, V-drums, digital video cameras, and more. Check here for full list of borrowable equipment.

This is not a traditional service offered by libraries. What prompted its inclusion in the new Central Library?

Well, Central library is not a traditional library! When we were planning the new library we knew we wanted to blend the best of traditional library services with new and innovative spaces. Community consultations showed that Halifax needed a great space that would foster learning about technology in a hands-on way. Teens and young adults in particular were a driving force to promote the idea of including the media studios in our plans. Since we opened, many other libraries across Canada have contacted us for information on how to build their recording spaces in their libraries, so maybe this will become more common as the years go on!

What kind of projects do people use the recording studios for? Do they tend to be professionals or amateurs?

csmgdbvxgaaox3a We’ve had all kinds of people use the studios – we’re particularly proud that Saints Alive!, a Halifax based youth mentoring theatre, recorded their Seasons of Love in the Media Studio. The CD release party was held in our Paul O’Regan Hall and the CD is now a part of the library’s collection.
Obviously our primary audiences are amateur and professional musicians recording music – but we’ve also had a dad and his sons recording an Abbott & Costello sketch, local government agencies recording instructional audio and podcasts, groups of teens recording a birthday video for a friend, and more. Friday afternoons are dedicated teen drop-in time, and we let kids noodle around on our instruments and develop their musical creativity.

Most of the people I talk to are surprised to hear there are recording studios available for free. How do you spread the word about something like this? Are there any other “hidden” gems that people might not know about/expect from their library?

Now that we’ve built up our capacity to have the studios running 7 days a week, we’re starting a promotional push within the library system to promote our space and services, and we’re also offering up more studio-based programs. Community partnerships with interested groups are still one of the best ways to get the word out – we know that most people signing up for a studio orientation heard about us from their friends.
As for hidden gems in our department, I think that a lot of people don’t yet know that we also provide advanced 1 on 1 assistance with recording or editing projects in the studios – you can make these appointments at the Welcome desk. Or that we love hearing from folks who are passionate about their pet projects and are interested in developing public programs with us at the library!
We also have Chromebooks and iPads that customers can borrow at the library and an elibrary that includes ebooks, audiobooks, car repair manuals, digital magazines, and language learning software that you can use on your computer or mobile device.

How can somebody go about using the recording studios?

It’s easy! Anybody over 12 with a library card (which are FREE!) can sign up for an orientation, which you can book in person at the Welcome Desk on the first floor of Central Library, or by calling 902-490-5700. At the orientation we show you how to use the equipment and software and answer any questions you have related to your projects. Once you’ve completed an orientation, you can book a public booking slot at the Welcome Desk along with any of our equipment you might want to use. There’s a maximum of 2 bookings a week per customer/group. Groups are welcome – as long as there is at least one person who has undergone the orientation session.

Full details about our media studio along with all the booking procedures can be found here: http://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/branches/locations/halifax-central-library/central-media-centre.html

Photos: HMS president Adam clowns around in front of the green screen.  HMS director Peter tries his hand a voicing a character for the HMS pinball project.