The Kent District Library is changing the way we interact with homegrown artistic talent. For years, area libraries considered local, independently produced media for inclusion in their catalogues, but the accepted materials too often stayed buried in the shelves and hidden from patrons' sight. But where other libraries saw a dead end, KDL saw an opportunity to lend a hand to area artists.
"We wondered what we could do to engage and encourage these people; to offer them a venue where they might showcase their talent and be as successful as possible," said Heidi Nagel, KDL communications manager.
Nagel and others at KDL answered with Local Indie, a new initiative designed to give local writers, musicians and filmmakers exposure in the community. Anyone can submit their content, and as long as they provide at least two copies of their submission and satisfy KDL's selection policies, their work will enter the circulation system as part of a special collection. The initiative's real innovation, however, lies in its promotional strategy.
Two branches (Cascade Township and Kentwood) host the collection in an attractive display, placed in a high-traffic area of the library. Staff at these host branches are responsible for blogging and tweeting the praises of noteworthy submissions, as well as putting together a list of new and featured additions that are prominently displayed both in the branches and on KDL's website.
"By giving this material the strength of a branded collection, we think that people will want to see it because it's Local Indie," Nagel said.
Area artists certainly seem to think so. The collection has already grown to more than 50 items and more are coming in each week. Nagel attributes the early success to a growing interest in KDL's indie-geared programming, such as an event held this past April where 18 Michigan authors advised more than 100 up-and-coming writers on how best to advance their craft and careers. A similar event is planned for the coming spring.
For artists interested, submission forms can be found at kdl.org/books_and_more/go/localindie.