With a Berkeley Public Library card you can enjoy listening to a huge selection of free music. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

It may be one of Berkeley’s best-kept secrets: Residents can access 500,000 classical, blues, rockabilly, rock, world beat, opera and jazz songs through their computers or smart phones.

All anyone needs is a Berkeley Public Library card.

The library subscribes to the Music Online database, which has uploaded thousands of songs from a wide canon.

“It’s one that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Shani Leonards,  a supervising librarian at the Central Library. “It’s really nifty and you can access a lot of great music.”

The library is trying to get the word out about its resources in a workshop series called “Be an expert @ Berkeley Public Library.” Library staff will hold a workshop to teach people about the online music database on Saturday August 6 at 2 pm. The class will be held in Central’s electronic classroom, a room outfitted with about a dozen computers set up for teaching. The class will present an overview of the data base and teach people how to search for songs, and create and save a playlist, said Leonards.

Other classes in the series include one using the library’s databases to research family history at 2 pm on August 31, how to use the databases to look for a job on September 13, and a class on how to find articles on line on September 3.

Music Online is a curated collection of licensed music that can be streamed from any computer by logging in using a BPL card. Patrons can create and save private playlists, listen to songs or whole albums without time limits, and explore music by artist, label, country of origin, genre. The music cannot be downloaded or copied, but only streamed through a computer or phone. It works on iPhones and Androids.

The library also has a strong collection of CDs and vinyl records that patrons can check out.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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4 Comments

  1. Editing myself:  I should have written “through the Alameda COUNTY Library.”  Not suggesting anyone truck to Alameda just for the library.  But the Alameda county library has many fine offerings that are available to residents of the whole county, including Berkeley, and among them are some digital subscriptions (like Morningstar).  I hope this is helpful to someone.

  2. There is an equally great (and different) set of resources available through the Alameda Library.  One example is the Morningstar service — you could pay $100/year for that, or you can use your AC Library card.

  3. Thanks, Berkeleyside. I did not know about this library service. I use the public libraries as heavily as just about anyone and I feel chagrin that I missed this great asset. And thanks Berkeley Public Library.

  4. Wow, awesome lead, and if you’ll notice when you go to the page, there are tons of other free resources, as well!

    I had no idea.

    If you like free music, get on the waiting list for Spotify!