Pam Thompson (posting on the IAML mailing list) draws our attention to this article in the Daily Express about Stewart Parsons’ Get it loud in libraries initiative at Lancaster music library.

This story has been around for quite a while now (as the Guardian’s story from 15th April testifies) but it’s gradually doing the rounds of the print media.  If you haven’t seen this already, basically Stewart arranges for bands such as The Long Blondes to play live gigs in his library, no doubt raising a multitude of eyebrows from traditionalists and distressing those like to maintain the hideous shushung librarian stereotype.

Now, I have no doubt that the idea of live music in a library is enough to drive some people ga-ga, but frankly this is a fantastic scheme that should be applauded and encouraged.  This is the Lancaster music library after all – why shouldn’t there be live music events there?  Far from straying from the library’s remit (which is surely to engage users of all ages and backgrounds, facilitate their exposure to new ideas and new experiences, and generally encourage learning) Stewart Parsons is merely finding bigger and better ways of fulfilling it by introducing a new and (frankly) unexpected dimension.  As Stewart himself says, commenting on a typical library gig audience in the Guardian article, “It’s a diverse crowd: we’ve had girls of 10 on the front row and old musos in their fifties loitering at the back. I don’t know where else you’d get that”.  He’s right – where else could you get that age range enjoying some of the finest bands around in the same room?  By finding a new use for the library space, Lancaster librarians are tapping into new markets, reaching new audiences and encouraging fledgling users to explore the library and its many other services in the process.

Not satisfied with taking the real world by storm, Get it loud in libraries has also got its own MySpace page and is developing quite a significant virtual following!  This is a great example of a library using social networking and Web 2.0 to reach out to new user groups.  Some would call it jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon that’s rolling through the library world at the moment, but this would be an unjust accusation.  If we as librarians refuse to adopt new technologies to keep up with demands of our users and, importantly, offer new services relevant to the 21st century library patron we are lost as a profession.  The use of MySpace by Lancaster librarians actually shows that the Get it loud in libraries project isn’t simply a flash in the pan to gain cheap publicity, but a well thought out, well planned strategy for developing new markets and appealing to a wider audience.

Admittedly, the scheme has attracted quite a bit of national media attention in the UK because it flies in the face of the stuffy librarian stereotype that most journalists seem incapable of ignoring, but it isn’t something to be ashamed of!  It’s about time we started shouting about all the great things we do for our patrons, the exciting work we are engaged in and the innovative steps we take to make a difference.  Librarians do a lot of good work, but if we don’t tell people no-one else will.  I just hope to see many more similar success stories in the national press in the future – it’s time the movers and shakers in all library sectors get the credit they deserve!

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