by Stewart Parsons, Get It Loud In Libraries Manager, Lancashire County Council.

Get it Loud in Libraries gig

Kitty, Daisy, and Lewis plays Lancaster Library. Photo courtesy of Get it Loud in Libraries.

Libraries are utterly thrilling places. At least they ought to be. They should wow the pants off people. All that free stuff. All that culture.  All that poetry to woo the ladies, and knowledge to make your way in the world. What’s not to like?

I have long held the belief that a library user should leave a library a more enlightened, brighter, happier, braver, more empowered individual compared to the same person that first went in.

But for that to happen, for that surging flood of the imagination to take place, the original resources often need to be re-imagined. To be presented in a way that is fresh and appealing and meaningful.

As a music librarian working in Lancaster, in the UK, I was aware that 10,000 CDs lining the library walls didn’t amount to such a great deal when the BPI loan agreement determines that a CD that comes out in the record shops and online today will be available for library loan in three months time.

Mmm, you got that kids? Come back in three months time, it’s only pop music, after all.

But I much prefer it when libraries are less about archiving the past, and more about presenting culture today. Indeed there is no reason why libraries cannot present the future today, here and now, right this minute. It just takes a shift in attitudes and how we imagine and shape our resources. Let’s do something brilliant to give the kids a reason to visit.

My own vision for re-directing the music library in Lancaster was to present live music as a key resource. Library gigs. But awesome ones. Shows that you cannot believe quite happened when you waken the next day.

Get it Loud in Libraries gig

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis plays Lancaster Library. Photo courtesy of Get it Loud in Libraries.

Six years on, Get It Loud in Libraries (GILIL) is  accepted as a well established, purpose-built project created specifically for culturally aware  and hard to reach young people which has been running successfully in Lancashire Libraries (and recently across the wider UK).

The elevator pitch? The simple aim of the project is to innovatively engage and develop the low-using but uber cool 14-25 age group (and other library non-users, of course) with public libraries through the best new live music.

In a nutshell, the live programme set out to:

  • Offer young people in the 14-25 age range community a pioneering, perception-altering library experience through a forward thinking live programme of gigs and events
  • Use the best new rock and pop music to generate new youth audiences that makes it easier for young people to engage /access libraries for books, multi-media, audio-visual and learning services
  • Actively support the NEET agenda in a  contemporary way, engaging hard to reach groups in deprived communities with youth-led volunteering, educational and social opportunities
  • Build and develop an infrastructure that allows the project to explicitly be developed by, for and from young people
Get it Loud in Libraries gig

CSS plays Lancaster Library. Photo by Sarah Christian.

Over the last 6 years the Get It Loud In Libraries programme has drawn an audience of over 26,000 people into libraries across the UK; created exciting opportunities for young people to lead, participate, volunteer and excel through artistic and cultural activity; and introduced current household name pop acts as diverse as Adele, Florence + The Machine, The Vaccines, Noah And The Whale and Jessie J to young audiences in safe high quality venues, months ahead of their debut album releases.

It must be added here that quality control is a must. The programme has got to make heads swivel, or it’s not doing its job.

The resulting success has truly exceeded expectations. The ensuing positive impacts has allowed Lancashire County Council to build sound foundations for other cultural projects that actively engage young people through the coolest, pop culture methodology possible. Since the development of the shows has been founded on clearly defined principles, GILIL has happily expanded access, experience, opportunity and well-being for young people in public libraries.

Amplification of what we stand for in every sense of the word.

Next shows:

James Lavelle Sun 15th January 2012
Hobbie Stuart Sun 29th January 2012
King Creosote Weds 8th February 2012
Charlene Soraia Sun 12th February 2012

Stewart Parsons is Manager of  Get It Loud In Libraries at Lancashire County Council. To get involved with Get It Loud In Libraries please visit: www.getitloudinlibraries.com. To learn how to stage a show please visit: http://www.mla.gov.uk/what/support/toolkits/Get_It_Loud.

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