Denver Public Library

Engage your community through common interests

A bag of 641.3373 Blend coffee created for Denver Public Library
Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library

"I think reminding people that the library is interested in the same things they are interested in has been really powerful."

Brenda Ritenour
Manager, Corporate and Community Partnerships, Community Relations, Denver Public Library

The Denver Public Library constantly looks for ways to engage with the local community. "I think it's important to almost every library now to get outside our building and showcase what we have to offer," said Annie Kemmerling, Manager of Innovation and Initiatives. Denver Public Library uses social media and in-person events inside and outside the library to remind people how relevant the library remains. Throughout September 2015, the library focused its activities on the theme of "brewing," resulting in the BrewHa!Ha! series of events, many new partnerships with local businesses, new local products, financial donations to the library and renewed library enthusiasts throughout the city.

As Collection Services Manager Rachel Fewell said, "I think understanding what your community's into is a big deal." BrewHa!Ha! began when staff on the library's customer-facing initiative teams reflected on what their city liked to do. "All of our neighborhoods have a branch library. And they have a coffee shop and a brewery in every neighborhood," Annie explained, which gave the library plenty of opportunity for outreach.

"People got excited about it," Rachel said. "It's stuff that our staff members are interested in personally too." Brenda Ritenour, Manager of Corporate and Community Partnerships, added, "We tried to make it open enough that people could engage in a way that works best for them." Beyond beer and coffee, staff focused library programs on brewing kombucha, aromatherapy blends, Minecraft potions, tea, root beer and more for all ages.

To get outside the library, staff also reached out to local businesses. Two local brewers collaborated with each other, the library and with Denver-based author Kevin Hearne to create two new brews: Fiction Brewing Company’s Third Eye Library and Herb and Denver Beer Co.’s Sour 641.23, which features the Dewey Decimal Classification® system number for brewed and malted beverages. The staff hosted a beer release party in the library and attended releases at the breweries. "We had our adult programming brochure there and some books," Annie said. "People were really interested in what was going on."

A local coffee roaster, Huckleberry Roasters, invited library staff to a tasting to identify their favorite flavor profiles to influence a special coffee blend. The resulting 641.3373 Blend, after the Dewey number for coffee, features a photo from the Denver Public Library's CONTENTdm® Western History digital collection.

Many other local businesses have participated by giving proceeds from certain items to the library or offering discounts if customers show their library card. "It has people flashing their card all around town," Annie said. "Hopefully, other people will see that and say, 'Oh, right, libraries are useful in lots of ways.'"

"We sometimes doubt how much we're involved in our community or how the library is part of people's routines. The BrewHa!Ha! event opened up the door for conversations about how people use the library. I would just encourage libraries to ask."

Annie Kemmerling
Manager, Innovation and Initiatives, Denver Public Library

"We want to remind people that we are part of the community and a resource for them," Brenda said. Another way the library does this is by posting photos to their Children's Library's Facebook page of staff members with books relevant to locations all around the city. They use the hashtag #TheresADeweyForThat "to show that there's a Dewey for just about anything you're interested in," explained Annie. "We've got all these resources about everything that people want to learn about, so we just put it out there."

According to Annie, the most important part of running any successful community engagement campaign is to have fun. "If you come across as having fun, businesses and other people think it's fun too," she said. The library will continue to participate in events throughout the city, such as the annual Denver Startup Week. "We have a lot of people who are working on solving problems in ways that will hopefully build their own future, as well as the city's future," Brenda said. And in this city's future, the library is positioned to remain a strong partner for success.

Map showing locaation of Denver Public Library

Library at a glance

  • Has 26 library locations throughout the city in nearly every neighborhood
  • Regular services include help for start-up businesses, inventors, students, teachers, new immigrants, people with disabilities and homebound patrons
  • Maintains more than 50 digital collections with photos and documents important to local history

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