Originally appeared in the Spring 2010 Issue of Wyoming Library Roundup
Teens complaining of boredom have not gone unnoticed, especially by libraries in Wyoming.
“They were always saying ‘We’re bored. There’s nothing to do,’” says Ellie Eaton, Assistant Youth Services Librarian at the Sweetwater County Library.
“So, I said OK well what do you want to do? What are you interested in? They said music, poetry, acting and art. And that’s where this all started.”
That’s when the library started to offer a variety of activities, especially in music.
“The teens wanted to listen to music and have concerts. Because all events at the library are free, this was a great opportunity to do something for the teens and also give back to the community,” Eaton says.
Donations from these events go to local food banks, help pay for people’s bills who have been involved in an accident, and however else the library and teens can help.
“The library now holds several events focusing on music in some locations other than the library. We use venues throughout the community such as parks,” Eaton says.
“When planning last summer’s Benefit Metal Show a band member of the metal band Picture It In Ruins provided the substantial damage deposition behalf of the library in order to enable us to use a larger venue in town, which allowed us to accommodate the 450 attending patrons.”
Last year’s annual benefit/metal concert came in response to grief of losing two young men in their community.
“Everyone handles grief differently and many people feel helpless about it,” she says.”
The funds raised from the show were used to buy a memory tree for both young men and at the request of the two families another tree will be planted in memory of a two-year-old boy who died very close to the same time.
There has been more than one occasion where the library has been filled to capacity.
“This is so neat because by doing these concerts, Poetry Jams and other events we’re able to get people into the library who would not ordinarily walk through our doors. It’s almost a sneaky way to grab the attention of people who may not realize the variety of materials available,” Eaton says.
“There are many teens whom as I get to know them and their interests, I am able to slyly suggest books to them that I feel will interest them. In some cases I encounter closet readers who are better versed in classics than I, and yet previously didn’t feel it was ‘cool’ to advertise this fact.”
Eaton says everyone who works with the libraries to help put on these concerts and attend are very respectful. Some of these bands are just looking for a way to showcase their music and can’t afford a big venue, and also with a limited number of venues in the area it’s a great opportunity for the library and the bands.
Through these programs, Eaton says she and others have also been able to see musicians’ skills grow, especially from the Poetry Jams.
“Poetry Jams offer a really comfortable environment for individuals to perform and often musicians will end up being featured in one of our concerts later.”
“To see the growth in these people is just amazing,” Eaton says.
The Poetry Jams are geared toward people of high school age and up because the material is completely uncensored. With an open mic setting, there is a variety of poetic and music genres that make the jams unique.
“We had two young men who started out performing the theme to the Pink Panther at a Poetry Jam. Since then they helped found a heavy metal band and are one of our featured bands at the benefit concerts.”
The library holds the Poetry Jams about once a month, which fills to capacity the library’s multi-purpose room with others filling the foyer and clustered around the doors in the main room.
Sweetwater County isn’t the only library that coordinates these events. Shari Haskins, Young Adult Services Librarian for the Riverton Branch Library, has also paid some special attention to their local bands.
“It all began in 2004 with the Rock the Vote concert for the presidential, national and local elections,” Haskins says.
“We had the Fremont County Election Office at the concert to help register new voters. We also had state and local candidates present, and they had their chance to speak to the crowd.”
After the Tsunami in South Asia in December 2004, the library held a benefit concert for Tsunami Aid in 2005. They’ve also hosted three Darfur Awareness and benefit concerts.
Haskins has said that sometimes teens don’t get enough exposure and awareness and she feels like it’s part of her job as someone who disseminates information to bring awareness.
“The bands have always been excited about participating and very generous with their help in organizing these benefits along with the set up and breakdown,” Haskins says.
“I will continue to use our local talent and this is an excellent way for the bands to expose their ‘sounds.’”