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A Small Town's Library Love Goes Viral, Earns Donations

Sure, the 110 year old building has charm, but the library in Shutesbury, Mass., lacks running water. Local townspeople are determined to change it.

Like in many small towns across the country, Shutesbury, Massachusetts’s local library is a community pillar. Kids come to practice their reading. Adults come to use internet and search for jobs. And just like in other towns, a budget crisis is preventing the community from maintaining the facility they deserve: The 900-square foot building, built in 1902, doesn’t have running water or even any space for patrons to sit down and hang out. Much of the town is restricted to dial-up internet, so townspeople naturally want to use the library’s high speed connection, says Emily Bloch, a volunteer. "Except there’s no place for people to sit inside, so people park in the parking lot and idle with their laptops."

While the state agreed to cover 60 percent of the $3.5 million needed to build a new, energy-efficient building that could provide a suitable home for a town of eager readers, the town needs to prove it can cover the other 40 percent by the end of June. A recent town-hall vote to raise taxes to come up with extra funding resulted in a tie, with many opponents saying they simply couldn’t afford to pay more taxes. So a group of passionate townspeople is taking fundraising into their own hands by creating a grassroots campaign centered around digital media.

An incredibly cute YouTube video by filmmaker Lindsay Van Dyke recruited local people to demonstrate their love of their library. The short gets to the essence of what makes libraries so important: having a haven for ideas, inspiration, and creativity. The video’s gotten 35,000 hits in a little more than a month, inspiring nearly $40,000 in donations from donors across the country as well as Singapore, Australia, Canada, Kenya, and Europe. It’s an amazing example of what creativity combined with a community's passion can do to get the world engaged about a local problem.

In honor of National Library Week this week, the fundraising effort’s turned to Tumblr, asking people to submit stories focused on the question "Where would you be without your library?" Think about it and take a minute to submit.


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