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Libraries Week – Creativity is the new literacy

Libraries Week - Creativity is the new literacy

As Libraries Week is marked in the UK (3rd-9th October 2022), Percussion Play publishes its latest White Paper on the benefits of music being used within library settings to enhance communities.

The world-leading manufacturer of outdoor musical instruments has seen an increase in sales of its instruments in the last year, with many of these being for libraries.

Libraries are an integral space for communities to create connections and to ultimately draw people together to keep communities alive. Often used as a space for people to use the resources of libraries, it is also a place for community groups to meet. Now, many libraries can boast that they are now creatives spaces, thanks to outdoor musical instruments.

The White Paper reveals that modern libraries serve many diverse purposes and these extend far beyond the holding and circulation of information via books, journals, technology, and archival materials. The library is a space for creativity, learning, socialization, communication, play, and more. In today’s society, perhaps more than ever before, libraries are updating and altering their services as they respond to the fast altering contexts of technological development and innovation, education and its purposes, the economy, and the world of work.

As library researcher Pam Sandlian Smith has phrased it, ‘the flexibility of the public library provides an environment that is more adept to change and indeed, is philosophically aligned with the 21st-century skills: communication, collaboration, and creativity. These skills are sometimes associated with culture and the arts, but they are becoming essential for a successful life in any endeavor.’

Sandlian-Smith specifically cites incorporating musical play into these spaces as a way to step into new generations of the public library. Various libraries across both the US and the world have begun to bring musical gardens into the outdoor spaces in their public libraries and are seeing the benefits of these investments. Due to the profound and proven impact of musical play—and especially outdoor musical play—on mental health, creativity, language and literacy, developing intelligence, as a tool for intergenerational connection, and more, the incorporation of music and designated musical spaces in libraries is, and continues to be, a hugely significant venture in the pursuit of inclusivity, creativity, and innovation in these essential public institutions.

One such library is the Scenic Regional Library that has provided over fifty years of access to books, audio-visual materials, and story times for its community in Missouri, and now they are providing access to music.

The library consists of nine branches across the three counties, with the Union branch being the first library to benefit from outdoor musical instruments.

When the new building was built for the Union branch, this included a brand new space for children where the library aims to develop pre-literacy skills. Having come across Percussion Play instruments at an event a couple of years ago, the library board fell in love with the idea of creating a space, especially for outdoor musical instruments, for everyone to enjoy.

The library was fortunate to receive money to purchase the first set of instruments, a Soprano Quartet Ensemble. This ensemble includes the Cadenza, a Small Babel Drum, and Soprano Pentatonic Freechimes.

The Quartet is enjoyed by everyone at the library, from children to elderly patrons. The ‘All Abilities Rainbow Center,’ which helps adults with learning difficulties, regularly enjoys the instruments. They said, “We loved the children’s area; we went and played all the instruments which we thought were great!”.

Christy Schink, Associate Director of Youth and Outreach Services Librarian, says the instruments have become a focal point at the library. She says, “It’s so lovely to hear chimes outside. The noise created by children playing the instruments provides a pleasant background noise at the library. There were concerns about how loud the noise might be, but the sound doesn’t carry, and we all enjoy the gentle chimes”.

With the library consisting of several branches spread across the tri-county area, more communities are due to benefit from outdoor musical instruments. The Wright City branch is scheduled to receive Freechimes and Pair of Congas, with the St. Clair branch and Hermann branch having recently purchased instruments for their outdoor children’s patios.

Jody Ashfield, Co-Founder, and CEO of Percussion Play says

This project is a great example of how our musical instruments can enhance the creative space of libraries, for young and old. The addition of musical instruments adds another sensory experience for guests to enjoy.” 

Read more case studies from Percussion Play here and read the White Paper here.

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