About

All across America, the public library is the only civic institution where the doors are open to all, attendance is entirely voluntary, and everything is free.

Free for All is a multi-platform documentary project exploring the history, spirit and challenges of the free public library. With public libraries around the nation facing drastic budget cuts and even closures, Free for All investigates why Americans are using their libraries more now than ever before and assesses the high stakes for democracy if public libraries become extinct.

Big decisions about the future of the public are being made NOW federally and in local communities across the country – decisions that will resonate for generations. How these decisions will be made and who will make them are questions at the heart of Free for All. Now is the ideal time to spark a national dialogue about the American Public Library’s future.

The Story Unfolds

The centerpiece feature-length film chronicles a “day-in-the life” of American Public Libraries across the country, from opening to closing time, interspersed with dramatic chapters of our libraries’ past, present, and future.

If you haven’t been in a library lately, you’re in for a surprise.

If you haven’t been in a library lately, you’re in for a surprise. Libraries are providing digital media labs for youth, computer and internet access, literacy programs, job search resources, creative maker-spaces, baby yoga classes, senior technology training, rare databases for scholars, and much more. At some libraries, you can even check out fishing gear, cake pans, heirloom seeds, power tools, a painting, or a laptop.

Why are people using their local libraries in record numbers? What would the U.S. look like without its libraries? What is it about our public library today, that movements as divergent as the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and homeschooling parents all extol it as their model of democracy-in-action?

We’ll watch these questions unfold in a visually rich and rollicking cross-country adventure that takes us through America’s grandest and most humble libraries.

The Multi-Platform Project

Free for All: Inside the Public Library has two major components in addition to the feature-length film: a series of short web videos and a national storytelling booth where library users share their personal library stories. We are currently designing an interactive website that will host these short-form videos. In the meantime, we are regularly uploading examples of them to our Facebook page and our YouTube channel.

Every public library is unique to the community it serves. We have shaped our multi-platform project to reflect this. We want to engage at the grassroots level as well as spark a national dialogue about the future of this American institution that has been a cornerstone of our democracy for the past 150 years.

Free for All: Inside the Public Library is a project of Serendipity Films, LLC.