There’s something thrilling about being in a library after hours. From Harry Potter’s Restricted Section to Beauty and the Beast’s sunlit personal collection, there’s a special joy that comes with being all alone and surrounded by books, and even a seasoned librarian like me isn’t immune to that little frisson of excitement. But when most people imagine the library after dark, they don’t typically picture a crowd whooping as a drum solo crescendos or a singer hits the perfect high note. But that’s the scene you’ll find at the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library’s concert series Loud at the Library.
The series is sponsored by Summit Brewing, and a valid library card gets you a free drink along with access to some of the Twin Cities’ hippest artists. In the first installment of 2017, on January 27, Eric Mayson kicked off the evening, playing old favorites like “Skyline” and shaking it up with some new material. Sarah White followed with some signature hip-hop soul. The Friends of the St. Paul Library, old members and new, grooved along to both performers, some even dancing through the bookshelves to the music as the twinkle lights from the Winter Carnival glittered through the floor-to-ceiling arched windows. Suit jackets and checkered jumpsuits mixed with dip-dyed hair and twinsets, with everyone agreeing that supporting a strong library system makes St. Paul strong and connected.
This is the fifth year in a row the Friends of the St. Paul Library have combined local musicians and the downtown Central Library for a good cause. Kim Horton, Friends director of marketing and communications, explained that this year more than just the live music was on display. “We want to make sure people know they can get music at the library,” she said. And that music access goes beyond traditional tapes and CDs—the library has expanded its music collection in two very different directions. For the digital browser, Freegal offers a seamless way to use your library card to check out new tracks and new artists for free. Strictly vinyl? The library’s got you covered there too: check out old-school records at select branches and luxuriate in that unparalleled warm sound.
In between sets, I headed up to check out the library’s Innovation Lab makerspace as part of the Lab After Dark expo. Located on the third floor, the space currently boasts a 3D printer, a digitization space, a vinyl cutter, computers featuring the Adobe Creative Suite, and (heads up, cosplayers!) two sewing machines, all available for public use. Next door is a study room turned soundproofed recording space. An extension of the Nicholson Workforce and Innovation Center, this lab is only for patrons 18 and up and is aimed at supporting the work of creative professionals in the community who might not otherwise have access to the training and tools they need to succeed. Not sure how to use these nifty tools? Just ask for assistance from the staff. Classes are also offered if you’re keen on developing Tinker expertise or learning how to sew a zipper.
It was a rough 2016, and 2017 is off to a rougher start. In times like these, it’s good to remember that there are places, here in the Twin Cities and beyond, where people come together to listen and dance and make things. Do yourself a favor and check out the Loud at the Library series—you may have daydreamed about being alone in the library, but it turns out it’s better when you’re surrounded by Friends.
There are two more chances to get Loud at the Library in 2017: on February 24 and March 31. Check out thefriends.org/loud for lineup information and more details. Tickets are $10 at the door or $5 for Friends of the St. Paul Library. All proceeds from the Loud at the Library series go to support the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library’s mission to bring people together through stronger libraries.