Local Music and Your Local Library: Success Stories

Unless you have the rare fortune of living within a stone’s throw of a “living history” site like Colonial Williamsburg, amateur and professional historians alike will tell you that one of your best bets for learning about local history is your local library. Indeed, many public librarians and library Friends view the preservation and dissemination of local history to be one of their facility’s key objectives. But, why stop there?

In an exciting variation on the same theme, a number of library systems in America, including right here in Minnesota, are making innovative strides to both share local music talent (and preserve it for posterity).  

The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, for instance,  last year had phenomenal success with its “Book It: The Party!” series at the James J. Hill Reference Library (located in that system’s Central branch). Library patrons and local music enthusiasts turned out in droves to see live monthly performances in the stacks by upcoming local acts, including Rogue Valley, Greycoats, and Bethany Larson and the Bees Knees.

In addition to the live performances, staff and volunteers hosted music trivia. Sponsors also temporarily stalled a cash bar on the site. Certainly not your average day at the library!

A Value-Added Local Service?

According to American Libraries, elsewhere in the Midwest, including Rockford, Illinois and Kalamazoo, Michigan, library staff and Friends are collaborating with local artists, promoters, and recording studios to expand their existing music collections with new local and regional offerings in just about every genre.

The time and effort required to take on such a project certainly presents something of a logistical challenge – at least compared to the existing protocols in place for securing albums and EPs by well-known national artists on national labels. But it is well worth it; every party stands to benefit considerably. The artists reach a wider audience than would otherwise be feasible. Patrons who might be turned off by the price of purchasing a CD or digital download by a new local act can get a first taste without any financial risk to them. And libraries add yet another value-added service to their library.

Notably, in both of the above instances, success would not have been possible without the help of Friends of the Library! Getting inspired? The below links may spark ideas of what YOU can do at YOUR library!

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