Earlier this week I attended a music night at my local public library. The night featured a couple of local musicians as well as Tenpenny Bit a traditional music group from out of town. The evening was free to attend (but a number of people did give small donations), included a couple of hours of good music, conversation, and snacks. The event was well attended and made me think about the relationship between libraries, art, and communities.
When I first moved to Northern Ontario I remember being baffled by the fact that the library wasn't open all the time. The town I grew up in wasn't huge but it had enough people and funding to support a large library with great hours. The library in the community I live in now is only open 29 hours a week but still manages to offer a range of programming.
In the past year the library has hosted a handful of small art shows and music nights. The art shows and displays have featured works by local artists and the music nights have highlighted both local and visiting talent. The events bring people into the library that might not normally visit and provide a needed creative venue within the community.
The most recent music night also highlighted the idea of libraries as community spaces and places of conversation. Most businesses in our small town close at 6pm. But the library is open from 7-9pm four nights a week. The library also has a visible presence in the local paper, community nights, and local events. This presence might be as simple as offering hot chocolate and cookies during the winter 'midnight madness' event to encourage people to step into library. The local library is an integral part of the community and actively works to engage locals outside of traditional library programming.
I like the idea of libraries as being flexible spaces of engagement where patrons can engage with knowledge, arts, and community. Books bring people together. But so do free cookies, music nights, and children's programming.