March 19, 2015

Library innovation and advocacy teams attend SXSW


SXSW_2015_Family_CMYK-02Librarians with the volunteer group lib*interactive and advocacy organization EveryLibrary traveled to the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas this week to participate in presentations on innovation in libraries. Their slogan? “Not the same old shhh.”

“EveryLibrary goes to SXSW Interactive to talk to starters, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists about librarians and libraries,” says John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, a library advocacy organization dedicated to preserving local library funding. “Librarians are early adopters who train the public on how to use wearables, apps and devices. Librarians provide important business reference, market intelligence, and supply-chain analytics to help businesses grow. Libraries are huge data centers, and librarians are the original taxonomists. EveryLibrary wants to bring a renewed awareness of these valuable institutions and the informational professionals who run them.”

As SXSW this year, Stacie Ledden, the Director of Innovations & Brand Strategy, gave a presentation called “Anythink: The Brand that Sparked a Revolution.” The Anythink Libraries in Colorado have done away with fines and they don’t use the Dewey Decimal System, in favor of more bookstore-like displays. One branch, Anything Brighton, is the first carbon-negative library in the United States. It also has the library district’s first makerspace called The Studio.

Ten years ago, the Adams Country Colorado system was one of the worst funded in the nation. But in 2009 the Anythink Foundation formed to raise private funds for the Anything Libraries. These funds are not used purchase books or for operations — instead, they’re used for innovation:

The projects funded by the Anythink Foundation fall outside of the scope of the district’s normal operations. Initiatives like Anythink’s public art projects, creativity labs, special programs and more are eligible for funding through the Anythink Foundation. And at Anythink, there’s never a lack of new ideas sprouting.

By 2010, the Anythink Libraries won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for libraries. And in 2014, the state reinstated grants for two million dollars to libraries. Still, most of the library funding in Colorado comes from local sources.

The other library innovation-focused panel was called “Coworking, Collaborating, Creating at Your Library,” and featured Larra Clark, deputy director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, Jon Marino, director of content and strategy at MapStory, and Nick Kerelchuk from DC Public Library.


Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.