All across America, the public library is the only civic institution where the doors are open to all, attendance is entirely voluntary, and everything is free.
♦ What does the library mean to you or your children?
♦ What does this free public space mean to your community?
♦ What would America be like without this beloved institution?
More people are using their library than ever before. Yet our libraries are in danger. With public libraries around the nation facing drastic budget cuts, closures, privatization, and skyrocketing technology costs, now is the ideal time to spark a national dialogue about the American Public Library’s future. Help support the first major documentary about public libraries in America. We can’t do it without you!
IF YOU LOVE LIBRARIES, HELP US REACH OUR FUNDRAISING GOAL!
Free for All: Inside the Public Library is a documentary series that examines the American Public Library’s history, spirit and challenges today. The centerpiece feature-length film chronicles a year inside a busy urban library and the dramatic human stories unfolding there – like Leon, who learned to read as an adult at the library, and now works there helping others learn to read; Gloria, the security guard who knows and sees it all and who worries about her homeless teen patrons; Maria, a 95-year old passionate reader whose lifeline is the library’s book-by-mail program; and Charlotte, the hip, young librarian who teaches seniors and recent immigrants computer skills.
These are just a few of the over seven million people who entered the San Francisco Public Library last year. In the blocks surrounding San Francisco Main, you’ll find homeless men and women sleeping in doorways, symphony and opera patrons in tuxedos and ball gowns, a law school and a media arts college, scores of Vietnamese noodle shops, a flourishing farmer’s market, SRO hotels, blood banks, a world-renowned Asian Art Museum, City Hall, the Veterans Administration, and the new global headquarters for Twitter. San Francisco Main is the only place where people from these many communities come together every day.
Some of the patrons come to check out free books or movies. Others come to do homework, use the internet, participate in a community meeting, meet their neighbors, or take one of an astounding array of classes - from baby yoga to senior mental gymnastics. Across America, in over 17,000 public libraries, people are doing the same, in higher numbers than ever before. And yet there has never been a major documentary about this vital institution.
What is it about our public library that movements as divergent as the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and religious homeschoolers all extol it as their model of democracy-in-action? Why are people using their local libraries in record numbers? What would our country look like without its libraries? What would be lost? We’ll watch these questions unfold in a dramatic case study at San Francisco Main. Yet the questions posed here are far from unique, and the answers hold the future of the American Public Library.
The Multi-Platform Project
Free for All: Inside the Public Library is a trans-media documentary series of compelling library dramas unfolding nationwide. By “trans-media” we mean the technique of exploring a subject through storytelling of different lengths and styles across multiple distribution platforms- including theatrical, broadcast television and internet channels. Together these stories build impact with a wide range of audiences, in order to spark national dialogue and local action – before it's too late.
Goals for the Free for All multi-platform project are three-fold:
1. Highlight the importance of public libraries in American society both historically and today.
2. Bring attention to the crises they face now and the ways people can get involved.
3. Create a toolkit that libraries can use to tell their own story.
Every public library is unique to the community it serves. We have shaped our multi-platform project to reflect this. We want to engage at the grassroots level as well as spark a national dialogue about the future of this American institution that has been a cornerstone of our democracy for the past 150 years. While the feature film is a compelling, in-depth verité portrait of one library, it exemplifies the larger national history of the American Public Library system. The companion collection of interactive short films, designed primarily for internet distribution, will broaden the conversation by telling stories from other communities nationwide, invite branch-based community storytelling, and serve as a hub for community action in support of local libraries.