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Library sheds stuffy image with rock band

Quiet and stuffy is not how librarian Gaye Kulvete wants her library to be viewed by teens. The Groton Public Library and libraries across the country are hoping for an image makeover by holding rock concerts.

When Kulvete, the unofficial young adult program coordinator at the Groton Public Library, heard about a Michigan librarian's idea to bring rock music into libraries across the country, she was intrigued.

``For the kids who are into reading, it's like preaching to the choir," she said. ``You need to try to reach out to where they're at, whether it be movies, music . . . a lot of libraries are getting into gaming in the libraries."

For her, it's all about creating a new image for the library. ``Teens are an important part of our society, but they tend to get lost in the shuffle; there are a lot of programs for young children and adults at the library, but teens get stuck in the middle, " she said.

Bill Harmer, a librarian at the Chelsea District Library in Chelsea, Mich., is always looking for ways to get young people more excited about the library. One day, on a whim, he decided to write to Michigan-based The Brian Jonestown Massacre Band and ask if they would be willing to come play at the Chelsea library.

At the time, The High Strung band was on tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre Band, and members of The High Strung said they would be willing to work with Harmer on future projects.

``In terms of putting together an organized tour, it came to me while driving to work one day," he said. ``It seemed like such an unusual idea, it's almost like a can't-miss opportunity for libraries."

Harmer wanted to have a statewide library tour, but was not very optimistic about the response he thought he would get from other libraries. ``I sent out feelers to Michigan libraries last summer, not expecting more than 10 or 12 to sign up, but we ended up having 35 sign up," he said.

From June through August of that year, The High Strung performed every other day at libraries across Michigan. The success led Harmer to plan a national tour. This year, the band is booked for 60 library shows in 42 states.

Kulvete is calling the June 6 concert, which is supported by the Groton Public Library's endowment, ``the Woodstock of Groton." If it doesn't rain, everyone is invited to the free concert at the gazebo behind the library. People are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs for the summer reading program's kick off event.

``The band comes in and plays a set of original music for about an hour," said Harmer. ``After that, they have a question-and-answer period with the audience."

A new feature this year is a song improvisation with the audience at the end of the show in which audience members have the opportunity to help the band write a song.

``My goal is to change the image about what people think about public libraries," he said. ``You take something that appears to be complete opposites, rock 'n' roll music and libraries, and it makes for an explosive combination."

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