Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Question of the Week: July 4, 2011- Creating a Music Lending Library

As a relatively new piano teacher, the idea of a music lending library is one that has become increasingly attractive to me in the past year. However, it is an option that I know next-to-nothing about.

As a student, I can remember the excitement of receiving a brand new book and relishing the fact that it was mine. I would write my name on the inside cover, and if there were any pictures in the book it wouldn't be long before I had colored them in. There's also something special about looking back at those old books and remembering my favorite pieces from each one. This is one reason I've always been a bit hesitant to embrace the idea of a lending library.

On the other hand, I know that many of my students would welcome the opportunity to borrow a book rather than spend the money on it. I already try to cut down on repertoire costs for my students as much as possible, and this would be another great way to do it.

As you can see, I'm still kind of on the fence about this issue, and before I make a decision one way or the other, I wanted to get some feedback from other teachers who may have used this idea successfully (or maybe not so successfully!) in their studios. So here are my questions:

1. Why did you start your lending library? Was there a large initial investment on your part?
2. What kind of material makes up the bulk of your library? Do you have any specific books/series that you'd highly recommend as a core of the library?
3. How do you decide when a student may choose a book? Is it a reward, a fun occasional activity, or does their selection make up part of their main repertoire?
4. How do you keep track of all the music? When a student has a book, what are your policies about the condition of the book, and how much do your write in the music?
5. Have you found this a successful investment of your resources?

I'd love to hear your answers to any/all of these questions!


  1. Hi Sarah,

    I have a fairly extensive lending library because I've ended up inheriting an enormous amount of classical music from family members, and friends who took lessons but never continued have given me their old books. As a result, I have quite a collection that I didn't need to purchase. I do however keep my eyes out at garage sales and on Craigslist for any interesting additions, and if I go to a music conference I will sometimes purchase good books, especially if there is a discount offered.

    Classical music is the bulk of my library, though I have a lot of soundtrack music, pop standards, and method books as well. Students generally don't choose books - the collection is a little overwhelming for them (they're pretty young). But they will often come to me with requests, and we'll go hunting then. Method books I would highly recommend are the Dozen a Day series - they are great technique exercises dressed up so that they are fun to play! I also love the Step by Step series for younger pianists. I've recently started purchasing the Bastien classics books because they offer quality, non-arranged classical pieces for young students.

    I have a Lesson Lending Log, where I write down who borrowed the book, what book they borrowed, the date borrowed, and the date returned. I'm pretty religious about keeping this updated, because books and other materials can flow through your fingers like water if you aren't careful. My students are all very respectful and bring back my books in excellent (if not better) condition.

    If the students are borrowing a book for a certain piece, I allow them to make one working copy of the piece while they wait to get a book of their own. That's important because we write a lot in pencil together in their music, and I want to keep my library in such a condition that it can be used over and over again.

    I've found that the books that I have purchased over the years are well used, and it's also good for me to know that I have the resources at my fingertips if the students are looking for a special piece.

    Whew, that was long! I hope that helps!

  2. I don't have a full-blown lending library, but I keep a few copies of things that I tend to lend. It turns out to be mostly technique books. For instance, I like the FJH Pedal Technique books by Wynn-Ann Rossi, but I tend to use only a few of the exercises. So, I keep a copy to loan students when they need it.

  3. I do not yet have a lending library, but my thought is that this would be a great idea for lots of sight-reading sources. (??) Any thoughts from anyone else?

  4. Four Star is a great series for sight reading and ear exercises, if you are looking for some!

  5. I am new to teaching also, but have already started to build a library. My students purchase their method book, theory, technique, etc, and eventually a nice collection of classical pieces they can use for a couple of years. But I have already found a need to supplement my beginners with more songs, sometimes because they just need more material at their level, sometimes for something interesting for a recital (Robert Vandall has nice elementary pieces). I have also found a need for duets that are written for two beginning partners ("Music for Sharing" 1 & 2 have been great). Holiday and hymn books are nice to have around too. As they may only play one piece from a book, I don't see the need for the family to purchase the whole thing. I consider it part of my "start up expenses." The pay off is having great music around for my students, so I think (hope!) it will be worth it. I only have elementary students now, so that narrows down my purchases. I usually just write "loan" in the book so I know it needs to be returned to me. Good question about a borrowing policy. It would probably be a good idea to let parents know I would request reimbursement if the book is lost or returned unusable. Sometimes they enjoy the book so much they decide to purchase their own. Looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts, and what you decide to do!

  6. I'm going to chime in here with some thoughts on all the great comments I've gotten so far. First of all, thank you SO MUCH for your thoughtful responses. I've gotten some great suggestions for repertoire to make a part of my 'core' collection.

    Once I started reading responses, I came to the realization that I DO have a lending library of sorts ;) At this point it mostly consists of my personal repertory collection, although I also have a sizeable number of hymn collections and Christmas music anthologies (all used by me for my church job). I've allowed students to borrow these books in the past, and just in this past year started buying a lot of beginner/elementary Christmas books as well so my students could have the joy of playing holiday music without purchasing a book they'd be beyond in skill level the following year.

    Tanya- I LOVE the idea of a lending log. I'm going to definitely make use of that! Last January, I simply asked students to bring back the music they'd borrowed from me...and didn't get one back until 3 months later! I couldn't remember who I'd given it to, and they had forgotten that they still had it... ;)I don't want to make that a habit!

    I also think your idea of a working copy is excellent. I've done that for students if they want to play one piece from a larger book (say one of the Arabesques from book of Debussy music) simply to cut back on the amount of books they have to tote to and from their lesson.

    Laura and Nicole- I agree that having a collection of technique and sight-reading materials is an excellent idea. While my students all use the PA Technique books, there are always areas with each student that need a little bit more work, and having a technique library to pull from would really be a big help. Extra sight-reading materials are always a good idea, especially when a student shows up for their lesson with NO books (like yesterday...).

    The primary reason I started giving this idea more consideration, however, was actually due to popular music requests. Many times, a student will request a particular song, and while I might find a book with an arrangement of that song, I always hate to have the student buy the entire book for just one song. I think that having a collection of well-arranged popular music would be a big plus.

    Any thoughts on this or good suggestions?