Greg Peverill-Conti and Adam Zand, owners of the public relations firm SharpOrange, were seeking an affordable co-op working place, so they decided to meet at their local library. Little did they know their search for an inexpensive and comfortable place to work would become a passion project named Library Land.
Janell and I met up with the pair at the Stoughton Public Library where we chatted about our shared appreciation for libraries and what it’s like to travel to and work in public libraries. As Pop up Art School we “pop up” for a few hours to teach art workshops at libraries while Greg and Adam spend most of their days in libraries working on their business. We all agreed that librarians are, as Greg puts it, “pure-hearted” individuals that work for the public.
Greg and Adam are more than halfway to their goal of visiting all of the public libraries in Massachusetts. At every library they visit they introduce themselves to the library staff to find out what makes the library unique. They chronicle their library visits on their blog Library Land.
Using a point system, they rate libraries on: parking/transportation, WiFi, meeting rooms, condition, completeness, community, friendliness, restrooms, noise, comfort level and the all-important question for them, “Good place to work?” Library Land is unique because it views libraries through the patron’s eyes.
Their peripatetic library adventures have taken them as far as Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is where Adam spent his summers. He has fond memories of visiting the local library with his grandfather. On the road trip they made pit stops to review libraries in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and New York.
What makes a library great in their eyes? One that has services and items available to the patrons that go beyond books, DVDs and magazines. Examples are: an array of free or reduced museum passes, a Library of Things and cutting edge facilities for patrons such as maker spaces with 3-D printers, sewing machines and woodworking tools.
The four of us have noticed a shift from the hushed libraries of our youth to vibrant neighborhood centers with activities and services for all ages. Some towns are lucky enough to have maker spaces with 3-D printers, Cricut cutting machines, looms and soldering irons. Another trend is a Library of Things. If you’re not familiar with the term, it means that patrons can borrow items as diverse as Instant Pots, tents for camping, KitchenAid mixers, specialty pans for baking and our favorite—prints of famous artworks.
Using their PR talents, Greg and Adam have created a buzz about Library Land. Local newspapers have featured them and Jim Braude and Margery Egan interviewed them on WGBH, a Boston-based NPR radio station. Folks in the library industry have taken notice. They’ve been invited to speak at two librarian conferences.
What I love about this duo is their enthusiasm: they don’t just appreciate libraries, they travel far and wide to collect a diverse array of library experiences. Their role, as they see it, is to evangelize for libraries and inform citizens that libraries can, and should be, vibrant neighborhood institutions.
Pop up Art School is a mobile business that teaches over 50 art workshops a year in public libraries. Join our Facebook group Freelance Art Teachers in Libraries. The group is for sharing ideas about teaching art and other subjects in public libraries. Whether you are a librarian looking for new ideas or a teacher seeking an enjoyable side hustle, we are here to answer questions and support you!