Dec 27, 2007

Libraries Are Booking Adventures for Families in Southeast Michigan's Museums

Libraries now let patrons check out a lot more than books: VHS and DVD movies, books on tape and CDs, MP3s, games, magazines and even art. But thanks to Macy’s, you can now check out southeastern Michigan museums and other cultural venues.

The two-month-old Detroit Museum Adventure Pass program allows library-card holders at about 160 participating libraries in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties to check out free passes for two or four people to 25 participating cultural venues, ranging from the Arab American National Museum to the Ypsilanti Historical Museum. Each library has five passes for each venue.

“Macy’s had a lot of success with the program in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and they wanted to export it here,” said Maud Lyon, the founding director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan. “They approached us in the spring to get the program going.”

The Cultural Alliance is a nonprofit umbrella organization representing the arts and cultural organizations in seven counties in southeast Michigan. The concept is simple: Just present a library card at a local library and receive two or four passes, depending on the venue.

The program is designed to get kids and families excited about visiting some lesser-known and unusual arts and cultural venues in their own backyard. It also provides free access to families who may not be able to afford to take advantage of these cultural activities and builds awareness of the participating arts and cultural organizations in Michigan, which is near the bottom among states in arts funding.

“So far, the response had been tremendous,” Lyon said. “In the first six days alone, we had 800 people use the passes.”

Museums and cultural venues in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago, where the program began, reported significant attendance gains, especially at smaller, lesser-known venues.

“They (venues) have been very happy with the program,” Lyon said. “One venue said 20 percent of its attendance was from the passes, and some were reporting they were selling more memberships because of the passes.”

The program, which runs through next October, is designed for families and friends instead of large groups and tours. The hope is families will use the passes for some positive and educational family time.

“It would be a great way to entertain, especially between the holidays,” Lyon said. “You can get the kids out of the house and see what the area has to offer.”

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