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Innovation SummaryThe Sacramento Public Library’s alt+library programming engages individuals in their 20s and 30s and, in turn, the newly formed alt+library Friends advocates and fundraises for the library. alt+library programming is intentionally provocative—designed to invite media attention as well as that of people in their 20s and 30s.
People between the ages of 20 and 39 make up 35.6% of Sacramento Public Library cardholders, and although an estimated 61% of the Sacramento county population in this age range has library cards, prior to alt+library, engagement with the library amongst this segment of the population was low. Few people in their 20s and 30s are members of library Friends groups and although traditional adult programs at Sacramento Public Library have always been popular, they have not been as well attended by people between the ages of 20-40.
To better serve people in their 20s and 30s, the alt+library programming initiative was formed. Consisting of on-going programming, a blog (www.altlibrary.com), a meetup group (www.meetup.com/altlibrary), and a book club that reads cult fiction and meets in bars and coffee shops, alt+library attempts to reach the 20s and 30s audience with programming and marketing designed specifically for them. Some of these programs take place outside of the library or are a little more edgy than typical library programming. Programs such as Broke A$$ Holidays, Punk Rock Aerobics, and Speed Dating for Book Lovers are deliberately attention getting and designed to subvert library stereotypes. Marketing for alt+library is mainly online, but when print materials are created they are designed as coasters for placement in bars and coffee shops or have a deliberately homegrown, slightly rough around the edges look.
Every alt+library program is designed and implemented by library staff. This grassroots basis allows the library to provide low-cost programming led by staff with a genuine passion for the events they create. From alt+fitness programs featuring the Lipstick Librarian, a skater for the local roller derby team and library branch supervisor, to a gardening program with a mixology bent led by a librarian and avid gardener, alt+library events have at their core an enthusiastic staff.
To support alt+library programming, an alt+library Friends group has been formed. Friends Board members are all in their 20s and 30s and plan to raise funds for alt+library while acting as library advocates in the community. Friends members are united by their passion for libraries and their desire to ensure the library provides programming relevant to their age group.
The alt+library programs have enjoyed excellent attendance, and are routinely featured in local media, both in print and on television—raising awareness of the library as a place for more than just books. The alt+library meetup group has 400+ members, forming a community of readers—for these people the library is a provider of socializing opportunities as well as traditional library services. Programs such as Bollywood Spectacular, For the Spell of It (a spelling bee for adults), Herb Garden Mixology, Broke A$$ Holidays, Punk Rock Aerobics, Speed Dating for Book Lovers, Speed Friending, and a series of GLBTQIA focused National Library Week programs, allow the library to act as a connector for members of the community who would not otherwise have met. Several friendships have been formed as a result of alt+library programs. The Sacramento Public Library is now actively engaging with a community of readers in their 20s and 30s—and as we see with the formation of the alt+library Friends and the high levels of public interest in these programs, this is valued.