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June 24, 2013

Ferndale library highlighted for community engagement

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Ferndale library highlighted for community engagement
The Ferndale Public Library will be featured in an episode of the “Bright Side” television program featuring libraries in the 21st century. The Ferndale library was chosen for its unique lineup of nontraditional library events, such as the Summer Concert Series, which kicked off June 18 with Soul Explosion.

The Ferndale Public Library is a popular place for readers and people who just need a quiet place. However, the library is also a popular destination for yoga enthusiasts and music-lovers.

As the economy suffered during the past decade, more people have turned to libraries for cheap and even free services. Jessica Keyser, director of the Ferndale Public Library, said the staff in Ferndale saw this as an opportunity to engage the community in more ways than just reading.

The library’s Summer Concert Series kicked off June 18 as Soul Explosion performed at the library in front of not only residents and guests, but also a camera crew.

The Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, partnered with the Library of Michigan, is producing an episode of the “Bright Side” television program that highlights libraries in the 21st century.

“I think we were thought of because of the different things we do in the community outside of what one would expect from a traditional library, such as live musical performances,” Keyser said. “We also have art exhibits and all different kinds of programs that are outside of the scope of old-fashioned libraries. I think the library in Ferndale plays a pivotal role in creating a sense of community here.”

The library episode, which should air sometime in August on Channel 10, features not only public libraries, but also middle school, high school and college libraries. Olivia Courant, CEDAM new media associate and “Bright Side” producer, said they selected the Ferndale library to be featured in this episode because of the new-age activities available.

“Part of what we are trying to do is talk about how libraries in the 21st century offer different resources to people besides checking out books,” Courant said. “In Ferndale, the big deal is (the library) offers a lot of different community activities. They have yoga classes in the morning, collect local music that can be checked out, and help people find jobs. Not everyone understands that libraries are quite different these days.”

The Ferndale Public Library was approached by the Library of Michigan to be part of this episode, which Keyser said they were happy to do. Besides the activities, Courant said Keyser and her employees took the time to listen to the community, which is something not seen very often these days.

“People at the (Ferndale) library took time to talk to the community to see what they wanted and what they were interested in,” Courant said. “They invited patrons and listened to what they had to say about having live music and classes and sessions on different topics.

“They had community collaboration and engagement and it is a really good model to build off of.”

Keyser said she likes to think of the Ferndale Public Library “as a modern day bar from ‘Cheers,’” but where people of all ages can come and it is a friendly place and a hub for the community.

The Summer Concert Series, in particular, has done well not only with Ferndale residents, but also with people who travel to Ferndale just for the musical performances.

“I met somebody a few months back and said I lived in Ferndale, and the first thing they said was how great the concerts at the library were,” Keyser said. “It’s been a very positive reception and we tend to have a good turnout each concert. If people can come into town to see the bands, it helps the local economy, too, because they are likely to stay in Ferndale and frequent the restaurants here or go shopping.”

Keyser said it is a misconception that libraries are going downhill, as most are busier than ever. With the Ferndale Public Library being featured on television, she feels people who maybe don’t know all that the library has to offer can see that it is more than just checking out books.

“If people don’t know what we are doing, they can’t take advantage of it and can’t support it,” Keyser said. “The events, we do bring people in and provide people with cultural experiences, which is part of our mission. We want to bring people together to have conversations and different experiences than they might otherwise have.”

For more information on the “Bright Side” program, or to watch previous episodes, visit www.brightsidetv.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.