Snuggling up with a good book and a glass of wine or reading outside with the sun shining down and a cold beer in hand… sound ideal? Reading and alcohol have often intersected and there is definitely an interesting relationship between the two. Whether it’s a form of relaxation or just socializing (fx. Book clubs) there are some events that allow the two to co-exist in absolute harmony.
With this in mind, can public libraries explore the combination of alcohol and libraries further, to potentially maximize the potential of this combination? Of course, the public library serves many different people from all walks of life, and continuing to be a respected, safe and responsible domain is of the utmost importance. However, looking into utilizing the libraries resources and matching it with the commerce of alcohol may be a great opportunity for public libraries.
Public libraries tend to be trend setters and ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing people together. So, it is no surprise that many public libraries have policies and regulations in regard to alcohol that have been revised in recent years. For example, the Halifax public library stated they revised the alcohol policy in 2015.
In some place’s legislation is helping with the idea of alcohol and libraries. In Illinois, there was a senate bill signed to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages within any building owned by the library district if the board of trustees has approved.
A distinction that is important to be noted is many libraries that currently offer alcohol at their library do it under specific rules and procedures. For instance, many libraries only offer alcohol at specific events put on by the library or fundraisers for the library. This allows libraries to incorporate alcohol under a very controlled environment and crowd. An example of this would be controlling the number of guests allowed at the event or the portions of alcohol consumed at the event.
Interestingly, there are bars or drinking establishments who have leveraged the “library theme or setup” to attract people into their establishment. There are bars whose walls are lined with books and patrons are encouraged to read while there. There is a great visual of some of these establishments found in an article called “Welcome to the world of library bars”.
So perhaps, this infatuation with having a drink and being around reading material can be used by public libraries to help generate awareness of their services and resources or even raise funds for the library.
Drinking at library events
A great example of how a library can attract users through fun interactive events while still promoting the resources the library has and potentially increasing library memberships can be found at two of North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) library branches.
They have successfully created interactive events involving alcohol that are held throughout the year and they provide insight into NCSU libraries collections, services, technologies and spaces.
Some examples of the events held are “Hunt Library after dark” and “Virtual Reality and Vino”.
Hunt library after dark encourages young professionals and recent graduates to enjoy a beverage on the terrace while socializing with peers after spending some time exploring the library’s programs for painting in VR space, 3D printing and robotics.
Virtual reality and Vino consist of attendees getting familiar with the library’s learning spaces and services. Attendees will be offered wine during the event where they will take a tour of the makerspace and participate in hands-on activities, with emerging technologies.
Fundraising events with alcohol
As discussed in the ALA magazine article, Libations in the Library, libraries who support the idea of serving alcohol for events or fundraisers on library premises, have noticed an increase in event attendance and have considered the events a success. It is also mentioned in the article these events are more attractive to younger adults.
The article featured Worthington (Ohio) libraries and their annual fundraiser called Books and Brews. The event attracts a crowd of over 200 and tickets are between $35 and $45. At the event attendees are able to sample different brews, eat food donated by local restaurants, participate in a silent auction and other fun events. The fundraiser which has been a tremendous success and is now in its 4th year.
There are many possibilities for the library to safely include alcohol into operations if deemed appropriate and of value by the library management, directors and community. Besides the potential gain to the library in regard to attracting new users, raising funds or awareness, there are also other positives that could come from this. Perhaps, it’s a volunteer class where interested parties can learn to make their own beer, or maybe it’s a new relationship formed between the local library and the local brewery.
Conversely, it may also be a great time to advocate and promote the drug and alcohol help classes. Many libraries have such classes available, reminding the community that the library is a safe place visitors can turn to for resources regarding issues of a more personal nature. For example, Casey Cardinia libraries provide resources that can allow their patrons access to professional help if needed.
The library is the living room of the community, as mentioned by R. David Lankes in episode 3 of the Princh Library Lounge podcast. Being the living room of the community suggests a multifunctional platform where different viewpoints come together.
As the needs of every community differ, libraries differ too, so it’s up to each one to discuss how events involving alcohol might be beneficial, or not.
The occurrence of a group of people sharing opinions, knowledge and information over a beverage, regardless if it’s served in a bar or at a library, will always be an active part of society.
Either way, it’s important for libraries to lead the way with innovation and ideas to continue to better the community by bringing people together.