originally posted on guardian.uk
Get it Loud in Libraries is a five-year project that aims to increase access to libraries while developing youth talent.
A trip to the library can change your life. That is the founding philosophy of the Get it Loud in Libraries project, which challenges the stereotype of whisper only noise levels. The dulcet tones of chart topper Diana Vickers rang out recently, surrounded by books as well as fans, at Lancaster library. Plan B, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Speech Debelle, and the Thrills have also performed for the project.
Winner of an award from the Love Libraries campaign led by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the five-year project aims to increase access to libraries while developing youth talent and has attracted more than 8,500 visitors, 5,000 of them first-time library users. Lancashire county council backed Get it Loud in Libraries and the MLA has commissioned a UK rollout.
"I think it's absolutely incredible. It's wonderful," Vickers say of the project. "I've been playing in front of big crowds and I'm excited about intimate settings where you can be close to your fans."
As a child, growing up in nearby Blackburn, she says that her school library was a "second home" to her. When she was young she loved Peter Rabbit and Mr Men books, and later her favourites included Little Women and The Lovely Bones. Amber King, 21, a project volunteer who attended the gig, said the crowd was one of the most diverse she'd seen, aged from four to 50. "Libraries can feel inaccessible but this project makes them feel unrestricted and places to explore. The reactions have been positive."
Attracted initially by the lure of the stage, youngsters who would once never have been to a library have been returning to borrow books and CDs. The project's founder, Stewart Parsons, has worked in libraries for 25 years and senses that the gigs have achieved something fresh, making libraries something that the young want to be part of. He shows me a text message he received following the gig from mother Lauren Zawadzki: "Your work is complete!!! Both Izaak and Dom [her sons] have (of their own accord) been reading in the library for the last half hour ... You should be proud. They would never have suggested that before the gigs".
Opportunities have also opened up for youngsters such as Lauren Sobers, a project volunteer who worked on the Plan B show in Rugby library. Her experience has led to an offer of work in the music industry.
Parsons hopes that the scheme is changing the way people view libraries: "My big beef is that libraries trail behind slightly; they shouldn't. This is about bringing libraries up to date. The beautiful thing is that people are reconnecting with the library in a way they hadn't done before."
The next gig at Lancaster library is Professor Green on 7 June. getitloudinlibraries.com