MELSA launches new library program

Library users in the metro area now have access to free reservations. to select museums and theaters.

Gordon Folke checks out a book at the George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Library Service Agency implemented a new program that allows people with library cards access to certain museums and theaters for free or discounted prices.

Maddy Fox

Gordon Folke checks out a book at the George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Library Service Agency implemented a new program that allows people with library cards access to certain museums and theaters for free or discounted prices.

Taya Banjac

A new Twin Cities library program will help connect local book-lovers to other art forms in the area.
 
 
The Metropolitan Library Service Agency, or MELSA, launched a pilot program Tuesday that allows Twin Cities library users to receive free and discounted tickets to select museums and theaters in the area.
 
 
The Bell Museum of Natural History, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts are among the 15 organizations offering library-goers free tickets to attract new vsitors.
 
 
Participation in the program will help expand accessibility, said Stephen Sokolouski, marketing and communication manager for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
 
 
“Being able to offer free tickets through the library is just another great way to get new people in who might not otherwise be able to afford tickets,” Sokolouski said.
 
 
From 2006 to 2012, MELSA had a similar program for museums in the metro area. While it was popular and brought more than 160,000 admissions per year, the group’s leaders wanted to improve it.
 
 
“Some people couldn’t really get to the library in time, and it was first come first serve. If you’re a working parent, it wasn’t possible for you to be at the library at 10 in the morning when it opened,” said Sally Lederer, communications manager at MELSA. “It was pretty high demand, and so some people never really got a chance to get the tickets.”
 
 
Andria Waclawski, communications and brand manager at the Bell Museum, was involved in the old program and said it was “a no brainer” to partner with MELSA for this new pilot.
 
 
“It’s our good faith effort to the public to say, ‘Hey, why don’t you give Bell Museum a chance? And try something out and learn something new?’” Waclawski said, adding that the museum hopes to provide library users access to special events on top of free and discounted admission.
 
 
Lederer said MELSA will use a web-based strategy to best provide accessibility. Any member of the more than 100 public libraries in the metro can log in to the group’s website with their library card and search for events by location or price.
 
 
Each online reservation comes with two admission tickets, and library users can make up to two reservations at a time as far as 60 days in advance.
 
 
“We have a lot of library users who are interested in art … so we want to help them attend some of these cool things going on in the Twin Cities,” Lederer said, adding that she anticipates the program will be popular.
 
 
The full program will start in September, and Lederer said she hopes to double the number of organizations on the list.
 
 
Once people begin using the program, Lederer said she thinks it will have a strong draw.
 
 
Jill Boldenow, community and digital services director at St. Paul Public Library, said existing art programs at the library are popular, but this program will make the arts even easier to access.
 
 
“So this kind of levels the playing field in a great way,” Boldenow said, adding it’s important to foster creativity and support learning among community members.
 
 
She said she hopes the program will also bring more people to libraries and inspire them to see what other resources are available.
 
 
“People will hopefully start to look more deeply at their community as a place that they want to explore and get to know better,” Boldenow said.