Rock Hall opens music history library to public

1959 Gibson Les Paul gifted to the Rock Hall Library and Archives by guitarist Joe Walsh. Photo by Lindsy Neer.

1959 Gibson Les Paul gifted to the Rock Hall Library and Archives by guitarist Joe Walsh. Photo by Lindsy Neer.

Lindsy Neer

Community members and students from area universities, including Kent State, now have unprecedented access to the history of rock and roll straight from the artists themselves.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been planning a library since its opening in 1995, but the Rock Hall Library and Archives finally opened its doors at Cuyahoga Community College’s Center for Creative Arts Jan. 17.

The library is open to the public and houses thousands of books, recordings and videos, but it’s the archives that boast pieces such as Jimi Hendrix’s handwritten lyrics to “Purple Haze” and a set list in Elvis Presley’s handwriting.

“If they’re doing research on the music business, really any topic within the history of rock and roll, they’re probably going to find something here that they can’t find elsewhere,” said Andy Leach, director of the Library and Archives.

After watching an orientation video and registering for a library card, the archival collection is also where students can find hundreds of papers from the likes of Clive Davis, Joe Smith, Jerry Wexler and dozens of other industry veterans. Those original documents include thousands of letters, photos, videos, day planners and business records, Leach said.

“In general, it’s really those collections that are the most important things that are going to bring people here to do research,” Leach said.

Kent State professor Andrew Shahriari plans to implement the library and archives’ resources into the curriculum for his Fall 2012 rock classes, Survey of Rock Music History and Popular World Music.

He hopes to have at least one assignment that sends the students to the Tri-C campus to witness firsthand the history behind the music.

“That’s as close as you’re going to get, especially to someone who has passed, to the mind of that person — that creative essence to that song,” he said.

Shahriari said he doesn’t expect every student to drive to the Library and Archives for every assignment, but those students doing heavy research will take advantage of the resources previously unavailable.

“I think as we get graduate students that are interested in rock music and popular music history, they’re really going to take advantage of that as a resource,” he said. “They’re going to want to go to the original documents.”

The Library and Archives has already started talking to those in Tri-C’s recording arts program about offering students internships digitally preserving some of the archival materials.

“The idea would be that they would work to help us get some work done as far as digital preservation, but also be a teaching experience and they would learn more about that field,” Leach said.

The Library and Archives is also currently partnered with Case Western Reserve University, becoming one of its affiliated libraries. This makes its catalog viewable online on OhioLink and on its website,

Although the library is, at the moment, a strictly research-only library, meaning no materials can leave the building, adding its catalog to OhioLink means Kent State students can view the materials currently catalogued.

“There’s more than that amount of books, there are tens of thousands of recordings and maybe another thousand videos” waiting to be catalogued, Leach said. If there’s a specific piece someone is looking for, and the Library and Archives has it, Leach said the staff can make it available.

Shahriari said he hopes both researchers and students will benefit from the new Library and Archives, especially Kent State’s music majors.

“It’s the idea that they (music majors) have a place they can go and learn about Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley the same way that they learn about Mozart and Beethoven,” he said.

Contact Lindsy Neer at [email protected].