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Free for All: Inside the Public Library is the first major documentary project about our nation’s most beloved and most threatened public institution. It captures dramatic personal stories from library users across America, highlighting thediverse communities that depend on public libraries and the surprising ways libraries are reinventing themselves to serve more people than ever.
ABOUT THE PROJECT Big decisions about the future of the American public library -decisions that will resonate for generations - are being made NOW in local communities across the country. How these decisions will be made and who will make them are questions at the heart of our documentary.
We’re an experienced team of award-winning filmmakers who are passionate about public libraries and their role in our democracy. Many people think of libraries as quaint book repositories growing obsolete in our digital age. We’re on a mission to dispel that myth.
The reality is that people are using our local libraries more than ever before. If you haven’t been in a library lately, you’ll be astonished to discover what’s going on inside them. Libraries are providing digital media labs for youth, computer and internet access, literacy programs, job search resources, creative maker-spaces, baby yoga classes, senior technology training, romance book clubs, tools for genealogy buffs, rare databases for scholars, safe spaces for kids after school, and whew, much, much more. At some libraries, you can even check out fishing gear, cake pans, heirloom seeds, power tools, a painting or a laptop, along with the latest bestseller.
America’s more than 16,000 public library branches are a vital lifeline for millions of people. But in many communities that lifeline is in danger. Despite record-high usage, over 50% of U.S. public libraries have faced cuts or closures since the recession. Many are debating survival options like branch closures, severe reductions in hours, charging fees, or privatization.
Intended for PBS broadcast in 2016, FREE FOR ALL: Inside the Public Library will be a rollicking and visually stunning mosaic of faces, architecture and stories that brings to life the astonishing diversity of the American library experience and the urgent issues libraries face today. This feature-length documentary film chronicles “a day-in-the-life of the American library” from open to close in public libraries large and small. It features a handful of the millions of dramatic stories unfolding within them, including an Illinois immigrant teen struggling to understand her new country, a retired Louisiana fisherwoman in search of new adventures, a California actor who’s recently become homeless, and a young Nebraskan entrepreneur with big dreams.
Free for All: Inside the Public Library seeks to inspire, entertain, and spark dialogue and action about the future of public libraries. We feel it is urgent to complete production now, so the film can begin to have impact as soon as possible while critical decisions are being debated. That’s why we’re asking for your support now to complete shooting our film — and for your help in expanding the national conversation about the future of our public libraries.
We have received Research and Development funding awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, California Humanities, the San Francisco Foundation, the Creative Work Fund, the Eastman Fund, and others. With this support, we’ve been able to spend the past two years studying the issues, learning from library experts, traveling to libraries to discover stories and characters, and beginning to film them. We’ve formed key partnerships with Urban Libraries Counciland other national library organizations who are helping us develop a comprehensive outreach strategy designed to maximize the film’s impact and engage audiences of all ages, community groups, and policymakers.
We urgently need $75,000 so we can finish filming library stories across the United States. As you can see from the trailer, we’ve already shot some compelling moments with our participants in several communities. But we’re not done yet. We still have to shoot over 60% of the film and traveling is expensive. We’ve applied for additional grants, but grant cycles take time, and funding is limited. Your support now will guarantee that we can continue filming around the country in libraries like yours, and complete principal cinematography in late 2014/early 2015, in time to meet our goals.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP
We’re asking for your support now so that we can move quickly to continue production this fall and remain on track for a release date in 2016:
HOW THE MONEY WILL BE SPENT
The $75,000 you are contributing towards will allow us to get back on the road around the country, starting in November, with our cinematographer and a sound person. It will pay for the rental of state-of-the-art equipment, air and ground transportation, hotel rooms, food, and other production expenses.Comments
The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is a multi-stakeholder forum to explore and champion new thinking on U.S. public libraries, with the goal of fostering concrete actions to support and transform public libraries for a more diverse, mobile and connected society. It focuses on the impact of the digital revolution on access to information, knowledge and the conduct of daily life. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, the Dialogue seeks to shape and advance a renewed national vision for public libraries in the 21st century.
The answer, researchers say, is not yet entirely clear. “We know how children learn to read,” said Kyle Snow, the applied research director at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “But we don’t know how that process will be affected by digital technology.”
In a 2013 study, researchers found that children ages 3 to 5 whose parents read to them from an electronic book had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. Part of the reason, they said, was that parents and children using an electronic device spent more time focusing on the device itself than on the story (a conclusion shared by at least two other studies).
But when it comes to learning language, researchers say, no piece of technology can substitute for a live instructor — even if the child appears to be paying close attention.
Even literacy advocates say the guidelines can be hard to follow, and that allowing limited screen time is not high on the list of parental missteps. “You might have an infant and think you’re down with the A.A.P. guidelines, and you don’t want your baby in front of a screen, but then you have a grandparent on Skype,” Mr. Snow said. “Should you really be tearing yourself apart? Maybe it’s not the world’s worst thing.”
Facebook content categorized as “humor” included pages titled “I kill bitches like you,” “I Love the Rape Van,” and “Raping Babies Because You’re Fucking Fearless.”
When it comes to copyright and intellectual property interests, companies are highly responsive. But violence against women “frequently gets a lukewarm response until it becomes an issue of bad press.”
“What these people are doing is reminding women that, no matter who they are, they are still women. They are forever vulnerable.”
Cheers to that.