Multnomah County Library’s Central Library is a really neat building. When I first visited I wished there was a guided tour that I (and other patrons) could take. Hanging in the library are all sorts of portraits that I don’t know anything about, neat details on the staircases and a great sculpture of a big tree in the kids section. Maybe there’s a pamphlet about the building but I didn’t seek one out.
It would be really great if MCL would record an audio tour and have it available as an MP3 on their website. With adequate promotion I’m certain they’d have people wandering around the library wearing their earbuds learning about the library building. The tour could even be a game. Clues could be left around the library, players could be given a sheet to fill out as they find the clues, and the results could be turned in to a Reference Librarian on duty. Expanding this idea, they could do an audio walking (or cycling!) tour version of their successful Branches and Byways which highlights the neighborhoods around MCL branches. I’ve heard these pages – library produced content – are the most popular pages on their site.
I don’t mean to be telling MCL what to do. I’ve just used them as an example because they’re my home library and I love the Central Library (and my branch – Belmont rules!). In other words, these ideas aren’t limited to Multnomah County, right? Many libraries have interesting features or are situated in locations around something worth talking about. The main strip of North Plains is only three blocks long, but maybe there are some good tidbits to share. If not, I bet a driving tour of the surrounding area could work. The only cost involved in producing such an audio tour is staff time.
An ambitious library committed to follow through could make a variety of tours, assemble tours from staff and people in the community and podcast the series. Not sure people would be interested? AudioSnacks is a website all about user generated audio tours. The site has a commercial model, but some of the tours are free.