Friday Night Live @ the library

I’ve been pretty bad about keeping up with posting here this semester. Instead of backing up and catching up on all of the cool stuff I’ve done since February, let’s jump back in with my most recent event!

Friday Night Live @ the library — live music in the library from 6-8pm on Friday nights.

We extended our hours this spring, staying open until 11pm on Friday nights instead of closing at 6pm… But a couple of weeks into the semester, a friend in circulation suggested that I needed to do something to get more traffic into the library on Fridays, because we had more staff than students in the library after 6pm on Fridays.

Part of the reasoning for extending those hours was that students complained that there is not much for them to do on Friday nights unless they want to go to some frat party or bar and get drunk. Live music performances in the library — a well-lit, alcohol-free, safe setting — seemed like a good idea to increase traffic and address that complaint.

I originally envisioned this as something we would do every other week or so, featuring as many student musicians as possible. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten much response from the people I’ve contacted and have been too busy to put a huge amount of time or effort into recruiting performers. Plus, I’m working with no budget to pay performers, which probably doesn’t help!

This semester, we’ve had two performances that I organized, plus a third performance that was organized by an outside group. Shortly after getting the go-ahead from my boss, I saw my neighbors leaving as I was retuning from walking my dogs. I hear them practicing on the weekends sometimes, but it’s kind of muted (they live across the street), so I can’t tell much more than that a band is practicing.

So I took a chance and asked if they would be interested in playing at the library, since I had this fun idea and wanted to run with it. They agreed, and wound up playing on Feb. 3.

They were loud. Like, blowing away the circulation staff loud. Oops! So, clearly I need to be a bit less wishy-washy and a bit more clear about volume levels — amplification is fine, just keep it reasonable, the circulation staff need to be able to hear anyone that comes up to the desk with a question! I did learn something about our building that night, though — you could barely hear any hint that a band was playing if you went to the second floor, and no sound from them made it to the third floor, aka the quiet floor. Woot!

Otherwise, it was a fun night. They weren’t the most polished band ever — they had several songs that they said they had just written “yesterday” or “today”… And, after about 45 minutes they had played everything they knew and decided to start over (since most of the folks there by that time weren’t there at the beginning).

After they played through their set a second time, the audience participation portion of the evening began! Some audience members asked if they could join in and just freestyle.

(My favorite part starts at about the 5:45 minute mark!)

The dean of the library was there for the performance and said that she counted about 40 people there, which is pretty good for a library event on a Friday night!

Sadly, that was it for a little while. In March, a committee on campus that plans fun weekend events asked to hold a concert in the library. Unfortunately, that was just two days after the exciting Ingram Library Flood of 2012… Which was caused by contractors working on the sprinkler system, and which kept setting off the fire alarms in the library. So, as luck would have it, the fire alarm went off in the middle of this performance, causing everyone to evacuate the building.

The next installment of Friday Night Live @ the library was a significant change of pace from the first one — intentionally, since I want to include a wide variety of musical genres. Lisdoonvarna is a local band that plays Celtic music and some soft rock & oldies. They were loud enough to be heard throughout the main floor of the library without blowing the audience away.

The only problem with this performance was the scheduling — Christian holidays that don’t involve a day off work don’t tend to be on my radar… But traffic was even lower than usual on Good Friday. So we only had about 20 people in the audience, and several of those were community members (friends of my boss). Only a few students stopped by. But, we had more people in the audience than I counted throughout the rest of the main floor, so I’ll call that a win!

For next fall, I plan to start earlier in recruiting musicians. This year has involved a bunch of jumping in to try new ideas — which has been great, but most of these ideas would have worked out better with more planning… I feel like jumping in and seeing what works and what needs more planning was better than sitting around and waiting until I could feel confident that everything was planned adequately. After all, if it had to be perfect before I put it on, I’d never actually host any events! So, hopefully by starting in the summer, before classes even start, then getting the word out at the beginning of the semester that I’m looking for musicians will enable me to book more of these Friday Night Live @ the library events. I’m learning more as I go about advertising options around campus, too, so that will help.

What other suggestions do you have for recruiting musicians? You know, other than paying them, since I don’t expect a budget for that to suddenly appear!