I have always been a big fan or libraries because my favorite type of books to read are biographies, I enjoy stories of all the amazing and horrible things that humans have done throughout history. My local library has always been a great way for me to get my book fix while sparing the expense of purchasing a book, because lets be honest for the most part once your done your never going to read those books again. I have frequently wondered how libraries are doing these days and if they were still as relevant in this new digital age. I know that I love going there and I have always wondered if other people still enjoy it as much I do. It turns out that libraries are doing all sorts of new things that I hadn't even imagined to keep there doors open, this includes building up extensive music collections, renting out movies, and in the case of The Ferndale Library, having local bands and artists play there during their off hours.
According to Ferndale Library circulation specialist (and amazing writer Jeff Milo) the economy's collapse in 2008 really hurt the Ferndale Library. This caused the staff to have to sit down and think of new ways to bring in money and people. They stopped focusing on it as a place to get a book and more of a place to have an experience. A place where everyone in the community could gather for FREE to participate in activities with other locals. This includes having art shows, kids events, and lots of bands. The library was even used as a venue during last year's Blowout. They are finding new ways for the community to interact with each other and have created a pretty amazing space to do this.
But, as we all know, free is rarely ever really free. It takes a lot of money to keep this place going and taxes aren't cutting it. They have decided to find their own ways to create revenue, one of those being a benefit show that will take place at The Loving Touch this Friday, September 26th. They have invited 4 exceptionally good local acts to play and asked the community to come out and help them raise money to help the library. They are asking for a $5 donation at the door and 18 and over are welcome to attend.
We had a chance to talk to Jeff Milo about the event. Read what he had to say and then make an effort to come out and support this valuable community resource.
HID- When did you start working for the Ferndale Library and what is your title?
Jeff Milo- "I worked here as a high school student for three years in the late '90s; it was my after school job to put all the books away. I was re-hired as a Circulation Specialist 4-1/2 years ago, to work part time (which gives me time to continue freelance writing)."
HID- This year the library has had a lot of musical acts play within its walls, including having bands during The Blowout. What made the library decide to team up with music and invite local acts in to play?
Jeff Milo- "Part of that is just the next generation or, at least, a younger generation, coming “up the ranks,” so to speak, here in the library; that being, particularly, Kelly Bennett, the current Head of Circulation. She’s worked here a while too, in fact, we wouldn’t have a CD collection if not for her, at first; but, like myself, she strives to bring her connections to the greater creative community into the library – and her way of doing that was dreaming up the monthly concert showcases, where she books two local bands to play, after hours, in the big multipurpose Community Room. After four years, it’s no longer a novelty, or some quaint thing, for a loud rock band of 20-somethings with frayed clothes and penchants for feedback to come in and fly their own personal freak flags, as loudly as they like, inside the otherwise studious and serene setting of a library. It’s BECAUSE of our embrace of local music, among other things, that this place can be considered “more than a library.” So it got to that point where, when Blowout came to Ferndale, it made perfect sense for the Library to be a venue…just, cuz, some nights of the week, it truly feels and sounds like a venue, anyhow. Or, shoot, an art gallery, too…"
HID- The library also has a lot of events for children and families throughout the year. Who sponsors these events and how would someone get involved if they wanted to participate?
Jeff Milo- "I would say The Library sponsors these events and then there’s further support just from the enthusiastic attendance and participation of community families. There’s no sponsor, really; all of our programs are either dreamt-up or coordinated specially by our Youth Services Librarians – be it touring singers who specialize in family-friendly folk singing type of stuff or visits from the Michigan Science Center. Anyone interested in helping out should just stop at the main desk of the library and ask to fill out a volunteer app or, actually, head straight for the KIDS CORNER and see what’s up!"
HID- In the age of digital everything, why do you think it is important for the Ferndale library to stay open?
Jeff Milo- "Because we can be more than a place that loans physical/print books. We like to consider ourselves more of a community center – a place to meet, hang, study, work on your resume, listen to music, research local history, view some framed art, see a live performance, meet someone new, join a book club…ya know, a lot of those types of experiences are not only rewarding but, in an age of secluded Facebook clicking, also refreshing, just to be out, in public, experiencing all these things in person. But we definitely have to underline how many people come here because they would otherwise have no access to the Internet or even to a Microsoft Office suite for resume tweaks – some of these things can be taken for granted…But in the digital age of streaming and drop-boxing and snap chatting and whatever…it’s all of THESE experiences that can only happen inside this library and because of this library."
HID- Who will be playing the fundraiser ?
Jeff Milo- "Alt-hip-hop quartet Cold Men Young, soulful trip-hop duo Sleepless Inn, metal-pop-raunch-rock quartet Odd Hours and NuDisco-dashed funktionalists Johnny Headband. We’re very humbled and excited to have all of these musicians performing for the cause."
HID- Will you be doing any more events like this in the future?
Jeff Milo- "Possibly! Maybe we could make this an annual thing? We’re hoping a lot of people show up and show some love for the library, that’s all I can say for now."
HID- Anything else that you would like our readers to know?
Jeff Milo- "Property tax revenues (to services like this library) really took a hit after the 2008 recession and we (like many) are still digging our way back up. But that’s the reason we’ve had to reduce hours, since more than 80% of our budget comes from those very same tax revenues (…as they say, a library isn’t actually free…) So events like these, a benefit concert, are more important than ever, given the painfully slow rate of the economy’s recovery. We are inexpressibly thankful for anyone who steps up to show some support for the library. It means a lot to us, especially with how hard we work to truly engage, enrich and connect with this community."
The Loving Touch is located at 22634 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale and the fundraiser will start at 8 p.m. If you would like to keep up with events like these, make sure to visit the library's website here, they have all sorts of events for children and for the child within all of us.