What do you wish library performers knew before they arrived at your library? No, there is no separate dressing room for performers … yes, libraries often attract a wide age span of audiences to one program – and yes, the check will be in the mail – but not until after the actual performance… no, urban libraries don’t always have the authority to set aside a designated performer’s parking space. Fortunately for performers and librarians, there is now a guide that helps both parties understand each other’s needs: Jessica Brawner’s Booking the Library; A Guide for Entertainers, Musicians, Speakers and Authors, ( 2015, Story of the Month Club, Denver, CO).
Brawner’s experience as employee, and sometime owner, of a booking agency that focused on bringing “small, quality acts to public venues like libraries, schools and community spaces” forms the basis of this practical guide for performers wishing to get public library gigs. Librarians who regularly book and work with performers will appreciate the understanding of library audiences, logistics, and payment schedules that is evident throughout.
The first chapter, “Library Basics”, helps performers consider the most important issue, “Are you and libraries right for each other?”, and the rest of the book covers the nitty-gritty of good library/performer relationships. Promoting the programs, working out pricing, (including when to use a sliding scale and when not), drawing up a contract, being specific about logistical needs, the importance of arriving early, and the importance of professionalism and flexibility on both sides are thoroughly covered. Online resources for managing schedules, providing requested information while on the road, and useful smartphone apps are suggested.
A brief chapter entitled “Performer Showcases” tells performers exactly what to expect (limited time slot, advance registration, multiple copies of flyers and business cards to be mailed ahead of time), and lists showcases in 11 states, including ACL’s Showcase. Sample phone scripts, program descriptions, follow-up emails and contracts are useful for both performer and librarian. If every performer were to own a copy of this book, library staff and audiences would be well-served!
Elizabeth Overmyer, Independent