Poetry in The Branches: An Introduction to the Model
Poetry in The Branches (PITB) is an integrated, multi-layered approach to creating a complete poetry environment in community libraries. The initiative includes a range of complementary pieces within one package. By increasing poetry acquisitions at each site within a context of librarian training and site-specific poetry events, Poetry in The Branches cultivates many different poetry audiences within a neighborhood. We are living through a golden age for poetry. The revolution in computer technology and desktop publishing has significantly increased the number of self-publishers and small and independent presses. Consequently, there are more poetry books being produced annually than at any other time in our history, with a greater range of voices appearing in print. For example, the Poets House Showcase, our annual barometer of poetry publishing, displayed over 2,000 titles from 767 presses in 2011. There are more poetry readers, and there are more attendees of readings, in a wide range of venues from bars and nightclubs to libraries. National Poetry Month raises the visibility for the art and pique interest around the country annually. Social networking has increased the ability of poets to connect to audiences. We live at a time in which poetry thrives. Poetry in The Branches serves general readers in new communities, extending the reach of poetry programs that have proved successful at Poets House to other libraries. Poets House designed PITB in 1994 and benefited from the partnership of The New York Public Library (NYPL). In 1995, we received a major grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund to implement it. During the first year in the three original NYPL target sites, Poetry in The Branches caused poetry circulation to triple. After that small start, Poetry in The Branches expanded in various forms to all three New York City library systems (New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Public Library System), was the subject of several major pre-conferences and panel discussions at American Library Association Conferences, and has gone national. This has been accomplished by the establishment of the Poetry in the Branches National Institute, bringing librarians from around the country to Poets House for a weekend-long poetry intensive. Poets House staff and poets have also frequently been invited to train librarians in their own home states, sponsored by their library systems, often with additional funding from businesses and state Arts and Humanities Councils.
PROJECT OVERVIEWPoetry in The Branches assists library sites in creating a synergy between books, events, writing workshops and professional training. All of these elements, working together, create multiple audiences at a site. In the original program, Poets House provided the following services at each site annually:
- at least three public programs for adult patrons;
- two after-school poetry workshops for young adults (multiple sessions);
- support services and publicity;
- a “special needs” budget for each site;
- assistance in collection development and display; and
- provided extensive planning assistance to branch sites;
- created a name-capture mechanism, building a poetry mailing list for each location;
- developed support resource materials, project reports and evaluation materials; and
- facilitated system-wide training for librarians.