During the past two and a half years we have created a community around active music making in Espoo City Library.
In our community, 50-100 amateur musicians and music lovers come together into a library every week to make music. The principles of our groups are: Equal opportunity, Easy accessibility, Communality, Active engagement, and Pedagogic approach. Our functional music services, as we call them, are free of charge. Everyone can join in regardless of their social status, level of skills, or financial situation, and without the need of making any commitment. The library provides the instruments, facilities and the pedagogic knowhow. The function of music groups is not goal-directed, rather the aim is to provide wellbeing and support to people. Our members have fun. If they have fun, they feel better, they come again, and they also learn.
Our groups have embarked also outside the library. We have been doing singalongs and performances in elderly care homes, at happenings for homeless people and in local community events around Espoo. The members of our groups feel that they have gained so much from the groups that they want to give back to the community.
I was recently part of a delegation from Espoo City Library visiting the international library conference, NextLib in Aarhus, Denmark. I had the chance to experience what new directions libraries world-wide are taking.One of the important topics in the conference was communality and community building in libraries. I was especially impressed by one of the keynote talks, Christopher Breedlove, from the Burning Man. I found interesting similarities between our projects.
Burning Man is not a library. It is a community building project that creates every year a temporary space for eight days, a 70000 strong city in Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA. The organization itself creates only the infrastructure. The participants voluntarily provide and creates the rest: services, art, entertainment and music. The core values of the Burning Man project have developed around trusting the individuals and the community: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Radical Self Expression, Radical Self Reliance, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace and Participation.
The result has been not only an amazing and transformative experience for the participants, but also tons of new art, music, architecture, technological innovations and a thriving global community have emerged. The community, Burners Without Borders, has been helping around the world, bringing their knowledge and groundbreaking innovations about temporary city planning and temporary housing into refugee camps, conflict and crisis areas.
Both projects have been built around trusting the individuals and the community. In both projects’ community is a source of strength. Both projects encourage communal creativity and individual self-expression. Both projects have created a positive feedback loop: Customers want to give back, because they feel that they have gained so much.
Library is not a temporary space like the Burning Man City, but library is an equal space open for all. In an open space many kinds of individuals and different kinds of communities can thrive. Could libraries promote trust even more in the future? Trusting our customers and employees both as individuals and as a community can have far-reaching effects. It can create something that the library or the customers couldn’t even imagine, a fertile ground for growth and creativity. We provide the space, let them create. Or as the Burning Man founder Larry Harvey puts it: We make the hive. They bring the honey.