The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library repurpose a silent space
The sounds of pages flipping, mouses clicking, and librarians shushing were nowhere to be heard on the last night of March at the Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL). As for accordion trills, popping beer bottle caps, and ringing guitar strings … they could be heard from the CD section to the children’s book collection, leaving non-ticket holders hungry for a listen. Quick to sell out, the final concert of SPPL’s Loud at the Library series showcased the versatility of libraries and their readiness to welcome all people and purposes.
Loud at the Library, made possible by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, is a concert series that offers members of the community a unique venue to listen to local artists. Their final concert of the 2017 season featured a twangy foursome called Tree Party. The folksy four weren’t afraid to flirt with dynamics inside the traditionally quiet space as they sang the lore of iconic Minnesotans. Beloved country blues musician Charlie Parr served as the main event, ensuring that concert-goers got loud and wild as they clapped along and hollered for more.
The Friends and the musicians were sure to incorporate books into the boogying. The president of The Friends, Beth Burns, introduced the musicians by what they were reading and encouraged audience members to share their favorite titles between acts. Parr kept his stage banter thematic as he told stories about his dad teaching himself to read as an adult and childhood days of recording checked-out vinyls from his public library over his sister’s Beatles cassette tapes. Presenting your library card earned you a Summit beer, further proving Arthur’s sage lyrics that having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got one of those bad boys.
Though Loud at the Library won’t start up again until next January, the night showed the smorgasbord of opportunities that come with a strong public library. Pre-concert activities included a free knitting lesson and tours of their Innovation Lab, which includes a 3D printer and a sound studio.
The Friends’ Director of Special Events, Liz Boyd, says that public libraries have moved “way beyond the stacks of books,” providing access to digital services, resources for small-business owners, homework and job-hunting help, language classes for those learning English, and so much more. Boyd notes that these services are hard to come by for free outside of public libraries, so SPPL is constantly adapting to make sure it can be a center of cultural hub for those who seek it.