Most workplaces have a place to go when you’re not working. A lunchroom. Cafeteria. Or maybe a space with an espresso machine and a ping pong table. These non-work spaces are also places where unplanned but valuable work conversations happen.
Social science has a term for these kinds of unintended incidents. They’re called “latent functions.” Latent functions exist on a grand scale at our public libraries.
Principally, a library is a building that houses books that are loaned out. Beyond that principal function, all kinds of social and educational programs are run out of libraries. Reading Outreach for children, Adult Literacy, creative writing workshops, all kinds of community meetings… And then there’s the tax forms, internet access and other services libraries provide.
Although we expect to find all these things at our libraries, local governments typically see them as merely latent functions – beyond the regular scope of the institution – and for that reason don’t necessarily fund them. In New Orleans, we have an organization dedicated to raising auxiliary funds to cover the shortfall. It’s called Friends of the New Orleans Public Library. It raises money through grant writing and donations, but principally it’s a bookstore.
Three days a week they sell donated books out of a building on the grounds of the Latter Library, on St Charles Avenue Uptown, and one day a week the bookstore is open at the library in Algiers. The Executive Director of Friends of the New Orleans Public Library is Shannan Cvitanovic.
When you’re not reading your library book, maybe you’re watching TV, or a movie. When you get to the end of a TV show or movie, the typically long list of credits is an indication of the large number of people it takes to make a work for the screen. Although that list of creators can number well into the hundreds, the only people most of us have any real interest in is the relatively small number of actors.
Within the entertainment industry, actors are also the center of attention. Projects are often funded based solely on which actors agree to star in them. In the tiers below those starring roles, landing an acting job is highly competitive. Getting cast in a movie, a TV show, or a live theater production depends on how well an actor performs at their job interview – known as an “audition.”
Here in New Orleans, there’s a business that dedicates itself to preparing actors for auditions. It’s called The Actors Apothecary. The founders of The Actors Apothecary are Chelsea Bryan and Sylvia Grace Crim.
For most of us, reading books, watching TV, or going to a movie is a break from our everyday world. But for some people, books, movies and TV is their everyday world. Shannan’s professional connection to books is unique: her daily labors provide an important element of funding for the New Orleans Public Library. And Chelsea and Sylvia’s connection to film and TV is equally unique. On paper it seems paradoxical to create a business that’s building a community of actors while at the same time giving each of them a competitive edge, but in the real world it’s working.