During our American Futures tour around the country over the past three years, Jim and I have seen libraries, one after another, stretching to engage the people in their communities. They sometimes work in surprising and quite un-library-like ways, at least by traditional measures.
For example, libraries become offices for entrepreneurs and start-ups. They are safe places for children, and sometimes offer supervised homework help and even meals. Librarians learn how to help patrons with health issues and personal financial challenges.
Libraries are hubs of technology, from helping library users print documents to sponsoring Maker Spaces. And they are centers for the community, providing space for citizenship classes or a corner for seed-lending programs for avid gardeners.
This week, more than 250 libraries and organizations around the country, and actually the world, are busy broadcasting the message of the new relevance of libraries in people’s communities and lives.
Outside the Lines is a week-long celebration of creative library events and experiences to introduce, or re-introduce libraries to their communities. The idea grew from a collaboration between passionate Colorado library directors and marketers, including the Colorado State Library and Anythink Libraries, a public library system in Adams County, Colorado, Erica Grossman of Anythink described to me.
Here are a few of the ideas that libraries came up with this year:
In Colorado, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife is partnering with the state libraries so that hikers can check out from their local library a week’s pass to the state’s parks, plus a backpack, binoculars, and park information. That effort began in June.
And my personal favorite, where Jim’s world and mine collide: Vermillion, South Dakota, is hosting a beer-and-books event. Go to the library’s beer garden (!) to grab an craft beer and meet the new library director. It’s Friday; don’t miss it!