'final vinyl' sale, May 20, 2023. / Tony Moschetto photos'Final Vinyl' sale at Robbins Library. / Tony Moschetto photos

UPDATED May 25: The Community Room at Robbins Library, 700 Mass. Ave., was the place to be Saturday, May 20, for the “Final Vinyl” event. It lasted six hours, during which all of the library’s estimated 2,000 to 3,000 LPs were offered up for sale starting at $3 each, or, for the real bargain hunter, two for $5.

Thanks to Director of Libraries Anna Litten and the library's booster club, the nonprofit Friends of the Robbins Library, the cozy basement space resembled a mom-and-pop-type record shop that a music customer might have visited in the 1980s or even earlier.

The atmosphere was festive. A hit song from six decades ago, “Blame it on the Bossa Nova,” by '60s pop chanteuse Eydie Gormé, played from a small turntable on one side of the room, even prompting some Friends volunteers to dance.

 “Excellent [record sale]. I found things that I would never find someplace else.”
-- Joel Aronson of Natick

“Fantastic!” was Litten’s response when asked about the turnout. “There was a line of visitors waiting to come in to the sale. Our first hour was a members-only hour for the Friends of the Robbins Library. Lots of interest then.”

Another bonus was that the sale prompted a big increase in people signing up to become Friends of the Robbins Library members, she noted.

“It’s just really great to see both people who are familiar to us, community members who come to Friends’ book sales all the time, and people that don’t really know anything about the library who heard specifically about this sale,” Litten said.

The entire vinyl collection within the town library system is being “deaccessioned,” or eliminated, Litten said, because of persistent dwindling interest in them and the simultaneous growing popularity of CDs.

“We have kept a small collection of records in storage and available by request, but very few patrons check them out,” she told YourArlington via email earlier in May. “In FY22, we circulated 57 LPs. Most of the LP collection was withdrawn in the early 2000s.” 

“It’s an opportunity to rescale our collections to areas more popular for our patrons.”

 --Director of Libraries Anna Litten

So it became clear that to her that the time had come to transfer the records, in some way, to individual audiophiles who would treasure them.

While there likely were no priceless finds amongst the pop, jazz, classical, opera, comedy, folk and country platters, among other classifications, there nevertheless was plenty to attract the seasoned private collector, the newbie and those who simply prized the sentimental value and the memories.

Sally Naish, left, and Lynn Larkin of the Friends of the Robbins Library staffed the checkout table at the event.

Joyce Radochia, a library trustee and liaison to the Friends of Robbins Library, was particularly interested in recordings that captured gems from another 20th-century form of media: old radio shows.

“I’m old enough to remember when we had no television when I was a kid. But it was exciting to sit next to your radio, and it would be a floor-model radio,” she said, holding up Tom Mix and Jack Benny albums. “These would be a hoot to listen to and play them for my grandchildren, who will probably roll their eyes.”

Radochia also loves instructional records that teach the listener how to, say, do the foxtrot or how to dance the hustle. “I mean, it’s just fun,” she said.

'I buy them to play'

A private collector from Somerville who wished to remain anonymous methodic'No No Nanette' was one of the musicals available for purchase May 20.ally rifled through a stack of classical albums. “I had a feeling since it was a library that was reducing inventory, it would probably be largely classical music and opera, which are my big favorites.”

He already owns thousands of rock and jazz records, so classical is the area he’s most interested in currently. He says he enjoys listening to music on vinyl about 40 percent of the time.

In making his choices, he said, “First is what the music actually is, whether it’s a particular recording I’m interested in, something I’ve read about or heard before, or if it’s just something that strikes my fancy. And then, if it’s something I’m interested in, I’d look at the condition of the record. I don’t buy records that are scratched and beat up or destroyed. I buy them to play, even if it’s going to cost me a dollar or two.”

A man who indentified himself as Spike from Winchester, whose wife had bought him a turntable just last month, doesn’t know how much phonograph listening he will do going forward.“This is a new thing for me. So, let’s see if it sticks,” he said.

He sees vinyl to some extent as being a viable alternative to streaming services. “It’s hard to find old stuff, good stuff, stuff that’s curated. So I thought this would be a good opportunity.” He left with a box full of albums: Irish ballads, "The Canterbury Tales," some Americana, some British stuff and hits from the 1950s.

Joel Aronson of Natick was at the Robbins on an errand for his wife, looking for show tunes and recordings by orchestras, as she likes vinyl. Although not a record collector himself -- he listens mainly to CDs -- he’s no stranger to vinyl. As a boy, he said, he was introduced to it by his late father. “My father had a fantastic collection. He had Tijuana Brass, "My Fair Lady" and "The King and I" -- the original soundtrack.”

Asked what he thought of what the library was offering, he replied, “Excellent. I found things that I would never find someplace else.”

     Jazz, pop albums sell out quickly                                                           

The 'Library of Things' provided this turntable used during the successful sale.Before 1 p.m., the jazz and pop sections were depleted. “I cannot tell you how many items have been sold. This table was full when we started this morning,” Litten said midway through the sale, pointing to a table labeled jazz.

That lack was a disappointment to some. “I got here late,” David Cooper said with a laugh. He said he used to check out record albums from the Robbins back in the 1980s. On Saturday, he was looking for jazz albums plus maybe some folk and some things that aren’t available digitally. “Not much of what I was looking for [remained]. But that’s OK -- that’s what I figured would happen.”

Further explaining the rationale for the sale, Litten said, “It’s an opportunity to kind of rescale our collections to areas that are more popular for our patrons right now. The greatest example is the Library of Things, which has been growing exponentially over the last few years, and it’s just great to be able to dedicate space to that super popular collection.”

The Library of Things at the Robbins consists of useful tems that an individual can check out -- for example, camping equipment, video projectors and other practical gear that one might not necessarily think of finding at a library. “For example, we are playing some of the records right now on a record player that’s part of our Library of Things,” Litten said.

Litten described the sale as an all-around success.

Those records left unsold after May 20 are to be donated to the Waltham nonproft organization More Than Words, which helps disadvantaged teens.

According to a response from someone monitoring the Facebook page of the Friends on Tuesday night, May 23, “We don't have a full account yet of how much we made for the Robbins, but many of us were guessing at least $6,000 . . . We think we sold between 2/3 to 3/4 of the records, based on how many empty boxes we had left and how much we had to re-store before More than Words could come to pick them up.”

Gwen Wong, secretary of the Friends of the Robbins Library, explained more about the pricing when contacted Wednesday, May 24: "We had two of the men who run the fourth-floor bookstore look over the collection to find things that we thought were exceptional finds, and we priced some at $5 and some at $10. Collectors wiped that table clean within the first hour of the sale.  By 2 p.m., the crowd had thinned, and we just lowered the price of everything to $2 each. There was a small free pile, too, where the library bindings had just fallen apart."

May 20, 2023: Spring '23 was residents' last best chance to get a 'licorice pizza' at Robbins Library


This news feature including photographs by YourArlington freelance writer Tony Moschetto was published Wednesday, May 24, 2023, and updated later that day with an explanation from Friends of the Robbins Library about album pricing. It was updated May 25, to add link to "licorice pizza" report.