We believe the library is a place to connect and create.

If I’ve learned anything as we continually research for this Project, it’s that libraries are transforming. The idea of a library as a warehouse for books alone just isn’t relevant anymore, and as we talk with librarians and artists about how the libraries in their communities incubate the arts, one of the most interesting trends we’ve noticed is a shift toward focusing on local content– both creation and collection.

Libraries aren’t changing their mission, of course– they are there to help the people in their community access whatever information they need, whether that’s the latest Janet Evanovich title, or a class on personal finance…

or a pop-up printmaking workshop that gives local printers a chance to connect with patrons they might not otherwise meet.

It’s this idea– that a library can be a place where the community comes to be creative together– that is at the heart of what we do at the Library as Incubator Project. We’re seeing some amazing examples of how libraries are supporting local artists and writers by helping them to create, and collecting and sharing their work:

Check out our feature on the I-Street Press Community Writing and Publishing Center at the Sacramento Public Library.  Funded by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the California State Library, the I Street Press as part of an integrated suite of services that helps community members self-publish, including writing and marketing workshops, an Espresso Book Machine where local authors can print out paperback versions of their work, and a growing collection of locally-created books that anyone in the system can borrow.

Or, explore the Iowa City Public Library’s Local Music Project, a brilliant, new model for sharing music in the face of dwindling demand for the CDs and vinyl that the library has loaned for years. Patrons who live in Iowa City or ICPL’s partner communities, can download albums from local musicians who leased their work to the library.  Once you download it, you own it forever.  In this model, the library becomes a hub for new-music discovery, and encourages patrons to thank the contributing artists by going to hear them play.

In a world of giant publishing houses and monolithic warehouse purchasing models, the DIY and maker ethos is a refreshing and necessary counterpoint.  And libraries, with their egalitarian and democratic sharing model, are becoming maker HQ, whether they’re creating makerspaces and workshops, supporting self-publishing, or collecting local art and music.

If your library is helping the community create and keep record of their own local content, I want to know about it!  Send me an e-mail at libraryasincubatorproject at gmail.com, share a link on our Facebook page, or tweet your favorite projects to @IArtLibraries.

~Erinn

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