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Going Outside the Stacks: Library Partnerships for Community Festivals

April 6, 2015
Audience
Adult
Older Adults / Seniors
Budget
Free
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Short Title
Library Partnerships for Community Festivals

Library participation in community festivals can mean new partnerships, free publicity, reaching a new audience, and a maybe even a suntan. 

I don’t know about your community, but my small Florida town loves outdoor festivals. We have celebrations for everything: Bikefest, Corn Fest, Arts Fest, Craft Beer & Food Fest, etc. Being located on Main Street in the heart of downtown, my library is often filled with festival-goers using our restrooms and enjoying our air conditioning and water fountains. The library does book displays that fit the themes of whatever events are going on within the community. Chili Cook Off? Jazz Festival? Easter Egg Hunt? We have a book for that.

Tents and patrons at the Literary Arts Festival

In the past, our participation was limited to doling out literary suggestions. But last year, we started branching out: we partnered with the local Center for the Arts to host a Literary Arts Festival to take place concurrently with the city’s 37th annual Arts Festival. Our festival took up a whole block in front of the library. The Arts Festival had artist tents lined up and down the street; in our tents, we had a dozen authors, selling and signing books. We also had a tent to promote future library events and a craft tent staffed by our youth department. On a nearby stage, storytellers and musicians entertained the crowd with everything from Cajun tales to sea shanties. Feedback from the participating authors and storytellers was great; they sold books and enjoyed being able to network with their peers throughout the weekend.  
 
The library has also begun participating in other outdoor events. We took third place in the city’s annual scarecrow competition; it gave our staff a chance to be creative and also promoted the library, as the scarecrows line Main Street for the month of October. We have marched in the city Christmas and Mardi Gras parades. The youth department has done crafts at the Renaissance Fair and Wings and Wildflowers Festival. We have promoted teen events at high school football games and homecoming parades. Our adult services department has promoted library services and programs at local baseball games and the farmers' market.  

Bikers at BikefestDue to road closings, our library is not open for our city’s annual Bikefest, but that doesn’t keep us from participating. In the weeks leading up the event we offer themed displays and programs. This year we have the safety director of the local chapter of the American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) discussing motorcycle safety and awareness. We’ve also hosted authors who have written books on motorcycling and motorcycle gangs. One year, when World Book Night happened to occur during Bikefest, staff members gave out free books at the event. Not only were the books a hit with motorcyclists, but also with the vendors, paramedics and security working the event.

One of the biggest benefits to these events? Library participation is almost always at no cost. We have the opportunity to reach members of our community who might not be aware of all of the wonderful programs and services we have to offer. We show the community that we are not the library stereotype. Yes, we are our collection, but we are also our programs, our services and our diversity.
 
The downside to participating in community festivals? After spending most of our time indoors, we learned that sunblock and bug spray are not optional. So slather on the sunblock and step outside the library stacks.

 

 

Tents and patrons at the Literary Arts Festival
Library Type
Public
Job Functions
Marketing
Collaborations
Audience
Adult
Older Adults / Seniors
Budget
Free
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