Chattanooga Public Library Offers Professional Recording Studio
Today’s teen library patrons in Chattanooga, Tenn., may be tomorrow’s next big music industry producers, thanks to The Studio at Chattanooga Public Library. The Studio is a 1000-square-foot, three-room recording studio located on the second floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. The project was funded by $165,000 in grants from two local foundations and managed on the library’s end by Meredith Levine, head of youth services.
Before spending the grant money, which was allocated broadly for a music lab, Levine and other library staff toured the area to see what kinds of services were already available in Chattanooga. They found some locations with good video equipment, but didn’t find a good recording studio that was easily accessible to the public, and so they used that idea as their focus for The Studio. “We didn’t want to make a small room a ‘recording studio’,” Levine said. “We said, let’s go all out and make it a professional recording studio.”
To that end, Chattanooga Public Library hired a studio designer, James Matchack, and asked him to create a studio with education in mind. For example, where most studios have small control rooms, The Studio’s control room is the largest room so that the library’s classes can fit inside it. The library offset some of these design expenses by having their own maintenance department do construction and electrical work, and by using recycled library materials including glass and doors within the space. The Studio is also filled with $80,000 worth of recording equipment, with a full list available on The Studio’s website . “My favorite thing is to stand by the door sometimes,” Levine said. “People assume it’s just a room, and when they walk in you see their eyes light up and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh.'”
Levine was committed to staff the space with people who possessed an audio engineering background, and she was happy to land on a partnership with a local 501(c)3 nonprofit called Dynamo. Dynamo’s vision is to give students the tools to become music industry professionals, and the library had the space for them to realize that mission. The nonprofit offers a variety of programming per week, primarily for teens but also for adults, including Beat Making and Digital Music, Live Sound Recording, Acoustic Guitars and Singer Songwriters, and Full Session Recording. When classes require recording music, local musicians are brought in to give students the opportunity to record a live person and give those musicians a recording to use for themselves. “The goal with those classes where we bring in artists is that they know when they go in there they’ll have something recorded, but in exchange they’re having teenagers record them,” Levine said. 
The Studio has attracted other partnerships outside of Dynamo’s class offerings. A local entrepreneurial podcast called Studio Next is produced in The Studio, and a community and culture podcast called Camp House will start producing episodes there soon. The Chattanooga Times-Free Press also hosts their Music Wednesdays series on Facebook Live out of The Studio. Levine hopes to extend the reach of the library’s partnerships using Chattanooga’s “The Gig” (a 1-gigabyte-per-second Internet connection available throughout the city) and a low-latency software called LOLA to allow The Studio’s users to connect in near-real-time with users in other locations to record music together.
 Meredith Levine, head of youth services at Chattanooga Public Library, in a phone interview with the author, August 7, 2017.
Tags: chattanooga public library, library studios, library technology, music studio, recording studios