February 17, 2018

Libraries Worldwide Go Outside the Lines | Interactive Infographic

OTL-splatters-taglineDuring the week of September 13–19, 2015, libraries around the world took part in Outside the Lines (OTL), a grassroots celebration devised to reconnect communities to the “creativity, technology, discovery, and all of the fun and unexpected experiences happening in libraries today.” More than 270 public, academic, and K–12 libraries—from 41 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, and Australia’s Melbourne Library Service—participated with a week of innovative, unexpected, and just plain fun programming.

Outside the Lines was born as an initiative of R-Squared, a coalition of Colorado library directors and marketers who first convened at the 2012 “Risk & Reward” conference in Telluride. R-Squared’s goal was to explore, and expand on, the success of the Rangeview Library District’s Anythink Libraries by thinking outside the box. OTL, led by Anythink’s director of innovations and brand strategy Stacie Ledden, launched in September 2014 with the tagline “Libraries Reintroduced.” (Arapahoe Library District executive director Nicolle Ingui Davies, LJ’s 2016 Librarian of the Year, helped spearhead OTL’s first year.)

The original goal was for 20 Colorado libraries to participate in the first OTL, but ultimately more than 175 libraries from 39 states and three Canadian provinces took part. Planning guidelines were kept loose, so long as the events showcased libraries interacting within their communities and highlighted their relevance to people’s lives, got people talking about libraries in new ways, and involved active, rather than passive, activities. Programming included science challenges, 3-D printing workshops, story walks, trivia nights, and a “Libraries Rock!” free outdoor concert attended by more than 2,500 people. The week was by all accounts a success.

Programming in 2015 hit even more imaginative highs. Libraries showed off new technology, conducted scavenger hunts and brewery tours, brought guests on paddle boat rides, conducted yoga classes, took photos and drew cartoons, looked through telescopes, built prosthetic hands, and—of course—colored, both inside and outside the lines. Participants received books and stickers, and posted reports throughout the week with the hashtag #getOTL.

Many libraries combined existing features with new activities. Carrie Rutherford-Stapleton, director of Metropolis Public Library, IL, told OTL, “With our push of the OTL campaign we took to the airways at our local radio station with a now re-occurring ‘Coffee Talk’ with our librarians. This gave us the opportunity to promote events and our other services for the community. Since we live in a river town, we have had an overwhelming response and feedback to our circulation of fishing poles. We reached out to the Illinois’s Department of Natural resources and they provided the fishing poles and promotional kits that accompany them! People are amazed at the type of materials that can be checked out at their local library!”

Check out our interactive map below for 11 recent OTL highlights, offering a varied selection from across the country and Canada. Even if you missed last year’s celebration, there’s no time like the present to start thinking about what you and your library can do Outside the Lines in 2016.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.