*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about the arts, creativity and imagination.
If you’ve been reading the news, you know that the President’s proposed budget cuts funding to a number of cultural organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). What you might not realize is just how deeply these organizations affect your library. Now, read closely here and note that I said YOUR library and not libraries in general. I stress this because, though many don’t realize it, a number of our current and former services and programs are/were supported by these organizations.
For today’s post, I’m not going to talk about the dollars and cents of this proposed change. Instead, I’d like to share with you some of the specific things that the NEA, NEH and IMLS have done for YOUR library.
The Creativity Lab: The IMLS makes possible the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding administered to states. LSTA funds made possible the opening of the Peabody Institute Library’s Creativity Lab, a popular makerspace that offers its resources free to the public. For those of you who love the Creativity Lab’s classes, Open Labs, 3D printers, laser cutter, vinyl cutter and sound recording equipment, you owe a big thank you to the IMLS.
Conversation Circles: Conversation Circles is another important service made possible because of a two-year LSTA grant. Thanks to the IMLS, the library was able to obtain equipment and resources to offer free, volunteer-led sessions that provide weekly opportunities for non-native English speakers to practice basic conversational English in an informal setting. This grant also allowed the library to open a Language and Literacy Center on the third floor of the Main Library.
Discussion Programs: If you attended the library’s Muslim Journeys, Let’s Talk about It: Jewish Literature, Picturing America, or America’s Music discussion programs, you have the NEH to thank. The NEH funds numerous discussion programs in libraries and the aforementioned are just a selection of the ones we have been lucky enough to host in Peabody. Thanks to the NEH we were able to hire scholars to facilitate discussions, invite field experts to talk about artists, and purchase books and supplies necessary to run each program.
The Big Read: Did you participate in the library’s Big Read of Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies? Materials and programs for that month long series, including a Skype visit with Julia Alvarez herself, were made possible by a Big Read grant from the NEA.
All of the examples I mentioned in this post are/were offered free to the public. The NEA, NEH and IMLS don’t just celebrate arts and culture, they make access to arts and culture possible for everyone. As you can see, we owe much gratitude to these federal cultural organizations. Their work enriches our libraries, but more importantly their work enriches our lives.