Project Neighborly: Dancing at the Library

“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.” —Thomas Jefferson (1809)

“Connecting our community with each other and the world to read, learn, meet and discover.” — Bellingham Public Library mission (2017)

Do you think Thomas Jefferson’s notion of a local library’s “extensive good at small expense” included dancing?

Probably not. But we think he would have approved of January’s Bring your Light to the Library night just the same. A community family event held after hours at Bellingham Public Library’s central branch on a cold and dark Friday night, the “extensive good” included singing, storytelling, crafts and, as it turns out, dancing (blame the kids)! As for the (not-so) “small expense?” That was covered in part by a Project Neighborly grant.

On that special Friday, library staff kept the doors open until 8 PM, transforming the library’s quiet zones into a welcoming space for a warm community gathering, complete with musicians Geof Morgan and special guests, sing-alongs with Helen and Richard Scholtz, music by PhDJ Spencer Willows, storyteller Doug Banner, activities hosted by PLLAY, face-painting by Chelle Beautiful and crafts like paper-lantern making.

Janice Keller, Communications Manager for the Bellingham Public Library, coordinated the library’s Project Neighborly grant for Bring Your Light to the Library. She said it is the kind of event the library would like to be able to host more often, in support of the library’s mission to connect people with each other and the world of information and ideas.

“It was an important time for our community to come together and find ways to foster hope and kindness,” said Keller. With our cold, dark winter weather, post-holiday, back-to-school and back-to-work stresses, along with contentious current events in the news, “We were all are looking for a little extra kindness and light.”

She said that with the library’s limited resources, it’s a big deal to stay open after hours, but sometimes that’s when people need it the most. That’s why the Project Neighborly grant was so exciting. Welcoming some 350 people over a scant two hours, the event surpassed the library’s hopes for the event, confirming both the need and the payoff.

“To give families a fun and free place to go on a Friday evening is to provide valuable opportunities to foster neighborly connections, while expanding people’s understanding of what the public library offers,” said Keller.

Which includes providing an ideal place to gather and promote hope and kindness. Not to mention spontaneous dance parties.

Photos courtesy of Alan Friedlob

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