Working strategically with partnerships makes it possible for libraries to create services focusing on specific target groups and cultural expressions. The partners gain access to the public and a significant platform for their activities. The youth service Mindspot from Aarhus is an example of how the users, the library and the various partners gain from co-creating Mindspot, but also an example of how partnerships with music festivals can be used to create completely different activities and library services.
Hip hop is in the air
It’s a Thursday afternoon at the Main Library. When entering the library people are confronted with a concertlike atmosphere. The famous Danish hip hop group Den Sorte Skole (The Black School) is doing a combined concert and lecture about their musical work. The group hesitated before agreeing to do the lecture, because they were sure that no audience would find it interesting. Fortunately the chairman from Aarhus Took It (ATI) convinced them otherwise. And here they are, playing, showing, answering questions and chatting with the audience. A young man says: “I love hip hop! I was released from prison yesterday, I have no money, but I will partake in the hip hop events here at the library!”
Aarhus Took It and Mindspot
ATI is an annual hip hop festival, which presents some of the most essential hip hop artists, puts hip hop up for debate and facilitates a networking place for Danish hip hop. The cooperation between the festival and Mindspot is running on its fourth year and aims at creating hip hop events at the library prior to and during the festival. Most of the events are specially created for the library. For three days once a year it is possible to hear lectures on hip hop history, partake in debates, attend concerts and see break dance shows in the library for free and everybody is invited.
The festival staff and the library staff cooperate when creating the three-day program. The festival staff has the knowledge about the genre as well as the network and the vision about what they would like to present at the library. The library staff is professional when it comes to arranging the events and communicating with the library users. Together the festival and the library advertise the events and the festival. Both parties bring an audience and they both contribute to paying the artists. Due to the cooperation Mindspot is able to offer qualified, unique, free events with hot shots from the hip hop milieu. The library users are invited to experience and learn more about a specific musical genre and to meet the artists face to face. Because of the cooperation we are able to bring together a variety of people from university students and music journalists over famous and not so famous hip hoppers to library users.
ATI also gains from the partnership. The chairman of ATI, Henning Winther, points out that the festival gains a significant platform, where it can present relevant things that have no natural place on its own stages, as well as a good sparring partner.
The cooperation provides the festival with the opportunity to present more activities without having to carry out a lot of extra work. As Henning Winther states: “We deliver input to what could be good events and Mindspot takes care of almost everything else – booking rooms, arranging contracts and PR. The cooperation is a great asset for us”.
Young reporters at SPOT
It’s a Saturday afternoon at the SPOT Festival. A group of young people are busy. This is the culmination of several months of editorial work. They are sitting in front of the Spotmobile. There are people everywhere; the music coming from several stages is loud. The young people have many and different tasks: They create music reports, fashion reports, atmosphere reports. These reports are uploaded to the official SPOT website – and at the same time they are lounge library hosts.
SPOT and Mindspot
SPOT is an annual festival with the ambition to create a platform for Danish and Nordic music. The aim of the festival is to support new bands and artists, who have international potential. Mindspot and SPOT have cooperated for four years. The cooperation with SPOT has several activities: Prior to the SPOT Festival the young people surrounding Mindspot arrange PreSpot, a concert for local upcoming bands. During the festival Mindspot is present with the Spotmobile (a caravan used as lounge library), which is also a centre for different activities. At the festival in 2010, 14 young people worked as web site reporters – 12 of them voluntarily.
Via SPOT, Mindspot gets the opportunity to present itself at a high-profiled event in Aarhus both inside and outside the library’s physical space. More importantly, however, Mindspot can use SPOT to achieve their mission: to activate young people, give them the opportunity to evolve their skills and interests, and make them co-creators of and partners with the library.
SPOT also gains from the partnership. Coordinator Conny Jørgensen points out that SPOT is a cooperating festival aiming at propagating the festival as much as possible to the cultural field and that they are always interested in working together with serious cultural parties. Through the cooperation SPOT aims at stimulating the cooperation with Aarhus Public Libraries in general and with Mindspot in particular since partly they have the same target group. SPOT finds it relevant to be part of a cooperation that combines the library’s communication, knowledge and knowhow.
At planning and evaluation meetings SPOT and Mindspot discuss and generate ideas for activities. SPOT donates festival tickets, finds space for the Spotmobile and helps pick out bands for PreSpot. Both parties advertise the events and SPOT gives Mindspot access to place reports on the official festival web site. The young people surrounding Mindspot arrange concerts and activities with help from library staff.
Creating library services
through partnerships Mindspot and its partnerships is an example of co-creation of library services. The two mentioned partnerships show how partnerships with musical festivals can have different forms, aims and outcomes. Both Mindspot and the two partners obtain different goals from the cooperation. Mindspot gets the opportunity to broaden and at the same time specialise their services. Teaming up with different musical festivals provides an opportunity to create various activities and the partners’ differences force Mindspot to adopt new perspectives on activities. Partnering up pushes the library to create and recreate services and to think and rethink the library over and over again.
The differences between the two festivals result in different arguments for engaging in partnerships with the library and in the way they think about the cooperation and their roles in the partnership.Where ATI’s aim is very concrete – creating alternative music events and debates that will interest other than the usual festival guests, it is less clear what SPOT wants to obtain from the partnership. SPOT has no specific needs that the partnership should fulfil, and Conny Jørgensen also points out that SPOT is satisfied with the cooperation considering the two parties’ contributions, but that it would be necessary to create a concrete project with specific activities if SPOT were to gain more. The experience is that both parties gain the most if a part- nership fulfils concrete missions and targets for both parties. The partnerships show that co-creation is a process that demands follow-up, reflection and willing- ness to make changes. It is important to continuously have a clear focus on what the involved parties – including the users – gain from the cooperation, how the involved parties can fulfil visions and targets and be equal partners.
Århus Kommunes Biblioteker
mlog AT aarhus.dk