Friday, 30 October 2015 15:21

Turn Down For What? GRPL's Music in the Stacks breaks the “Shh” stereotype

Written by  Elma Talundzic
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Jacob Bullard performs at Music in the Stacks on Nov. 4 Jacob Bullard performs at Music in the Stacks on Nov. 4

As kids, we were always taught to keep it down in the library or risk being hushed by the stern librarian keeping watch in the corner.

Fear not fellow bookworms/music nerds: The Grand Rapids Public Library is breaking the “shh!” stereotype with its Music in the Stacks, a free and all-ages concert series.

“The Stacks,” referring to the library’s endless rows of book shelves, is where the intimate concerts are held. Specifically, the concerts are held in the beautiful and historical Biography Room at the downtown GRPL, making for an unconventional, sonically rich experience. 

“One of the big reasons I like it ‘in the stacks’ is for the acoustics,” said Katie Broderick, a reference librarian at the GRPL who spearheaded the series. “I like to think the books are absorbing the sound and creating great acoustics.”

The program has been a success for the library — with crowds ranging from 70 to 100 people. And it offers an alternative to late-night barroom shows. 

“What I love about Music in the Stacks is that it’s a new place to check out a local band that’s not in a dark, crowded bar,” Broderick said. “There’s no alcohol. It’s all ages. It’s warm and inviting. And you’re surrounded by books.”

Music in the Stacks
Grand Rapids Main Library, 111 Library St. NE

All shows FREE, all ages, (616) 988-5400

Jacob Bullard Nov. 4, 7–8 p.m.
Tokyo Morose Dec. 17, 7–8 p.m.
Tommy Schichtel Jan. 21, 7–8 p.m.
Villalobos Feb. 11, 7–8 p.m.
Lady Ace Boogie Mar. 16, 7–8 p.m.
Nathan Kalish and The Lastcallers Apr. 6, 7–8 p.m.

Broderick said she has envisioned having music in the library ever since she was studying to become a librarian.

After further inspiration from the Take Away Show on La Blogotheque, Broderick made the suggestion a few years back when she was an assistant at the library. Since becoming a full-time librarian last summer, and with nearly nine years at GRPL, Broderick took on Music in the Stacks with the hope of drawing in the harder to reach 20 and 30 somethings.

“My goal is to increase their awareness of the depth of our collections and wide range of resources we offer,” she said. “The program not only serves as a platform for independent artists, but it also brings local music enthusiasts together to share a unique, intimate experience.”

The event kicks off Nov. 4 with a musical performance by Michigan native Jacob Bullard of the indie-folk outfit, Antrim Dells. He has also performed or written for a slew of bands including Backyard Songbook, Strawberry Heritage, Ton Hymm and Care. Recently, Bullard released the E.P. Future Release with his new band Major Murphy. 

This season the Grand Rapids Public Library hosts a series of six shows, once a month from November 2015 to April 2016. Broderick said she strives to choose from a number of genres including alternative, rock, folk, Americana, rap and hip-hop. 

“Music draws people of all ages and backgrounds together,” she said. “We strive to be welcoming and open to all of our patrons.”

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