Public Libraries Link to Digital VT Music Archive: Statewide Project Brings Cultural Resource to Disaster Resiliency

Words & Photos by James Lockridge

A virtual library of Vermont-made music is gaining exposure through the Vermont Digital Economy Project of the Vermont Council on Rural Development. By mid-February 2015, up to 15 public library web sites will link to the Vermont Music Library of Big Heavy World, a volunteer-driven effort to preserve the original music of Vermont, where 10,000+ songs by Vermont artists can be discovered.

The Vermont Digital Economy Project found that communities with digitally connected non-profit organizations were more resilient to natural disasters. With major support by the US Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and working closely with the Vermont Department of Libraries, the project helped build websites to make Vermont non-profits, including public libraries, more connected, making Vermont communities more resilient in times of disaster.

The project upgraded web sites for 15 Vermont public libraries. A content management system template was funded by the project and the upgrades were made by tech-savvy volunteers. These sites are being linked to a virtual music library app on the web site, programmed by volunteer civic hacker Nathan Haskins, and winning a prize in MyWebGrocer’s HackVT hackathon. The app makes it possible to hear original Vermont-made music of every genre and can be found at The Roxbury Free Library and Alburgh Public Library are the first two of these public library web sites to launch.

Rob Fish, Community Organizer for the Vermont Digital Economy Project, says, “We’re sustaining the links between Vermonters, even in times of adversity, by innovating with technology. By preserving our sense of belonging, community, and the culture that makes us who we are, this project is an expression of Vermont’s strength as a people.”

Rob Fish and volunteers

Paul Costello, VCRD Executive Director, explains, “This project has shown how important digital tools are in supporting our cornerstone values such as community, mutual aid, creative entrepreneurism, farm and forest enterprises, and strong downtowns.”

Features of the Big Heavy World music library app are being expanded in 2015, as well as Big Heavy World’s Vermont Music Library online catalog, in partnership with the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington.

Big Heavy World serves Vermont as a volunteer-staffed music office. Its programs foster the success of local musicians while capturing the historic record of music and musicians in the state. As a grass roots, citizen-driven community and economic development enterprise, it uniquely engages young adult volunteers in its work. See