What happens when you mix a group of music-loving librarians, eight teenage bands and an online social networking site?
You get Battle of the Bands XI: Rockus Maximus. Think Pasco's version of American Idol.
"We thought of American Idol, and we said, 'Why can't we use this format of online voting and watching videos online to benefit the kids here and improve an event we already have?' " said Paul Stonebridge, a librarian at the county's Land O'Lakes branch.
The band competition — in which eight bands perform 25-minute sets before a group of judges — isn't new. But the online aspect is.
Here's how the new format will work:
Hoping to tap into the appeal of social networking sites to get teenagers interested in the library's events, the library staff set up a MySpace Web site for the event: www.myspace.com/pascolibraries. Visitors can watch documentaries taped at Pasco libraries by each of the eight bands.
Eight episodes have appeared each week since Feb. 1. Viewers can see profiles of the bands, who also perform literary skits from classics like Romeo and Juliet and do public service announcements for the library.
The videos also can be viewed at www.youtube.com/pascobob.
Each week, fans can go on MySpace and vote for their favorite band. Only one vote is allowed per person per day.
The eight bands offer a cross section of musical genres, from "death metal easy listening" to "Christian folk rock."
Help from the Internet
When the March 28 competition arrives, the band with the most online votes will receive a $500 gift card to Jam Music in Land O'Lakes, which can be used for lessons or equipment repair.
The winner of the live event, which will be judged by library staff and members of the library's teen advisory board, will receive a three-song recording contract with Rev Music Group, which will book the band's shows for one year.
So far, the MySpace site has been a hit. The page has gotten 5,754 views since Feb. 1, according to library officials. On the YouTube site, library officials had 3,861 views of the videos.
"We're thrilled," Stonebridge said of the staff's success with the new format. "The kids could've said, 'This is stupid.' But they didn't. We've tapped into what they like, need and want."
Library staff say merging two contrasting ideas — the hush-hush quiet of a library with a noisy band concert — draws in young people by helping them see the library is more than just a place where books collect dust.
"It shows kids the library is cool and exciting and relevant to what they want," Stonebridge said. "It gives them something else to try. Then, they start hanging out at the library, and they become a lifelong user. One event leads to taking advantage of others."
The band competition has been a success since it began 11 years ago. At the time, patrons told library staff they wanted more events that catered to teens. So the library's youth advisory board figured a band event would be the perfect fit.
Library staff sent fliers out and contacted area schools in search of local bands. Bands had to have at least three members, be Pasco residents, play two original songs during their set, and play their own instruments.
Friends of the Library paid for the sound systems and lights, and the teen advisory board sold food.
Each year, about 250 people gather at Crews Lake Wilderness Park in Shady Hills to watch the free performances.
Last year, when planning began for this year's event, Stonebridge and Kevin Griffith, adult services coordinator for the library, started brainstorming a new approach.
"We said, 'What can we do to make ourselves not obsolete?' " Griffith said.
Someone suggested using MySpace, so Griffith and Stonebridge coordinated with James Francosky, youth services promoter at the library, to get the ball rolling.
All three have a love for music, and were excited about exploring a new event format. Francosky, who set up the MySpace page, works part time as a radio DJ. Stonebridge used to have an FM radio show. And Griffith is a lifelong music fan.
"It seems weird, but it's also such an obvious thing to do," Griffith said. "We wanted to challenge ourselves. We were thinking, this could be a complete crash and burn. Or, it could be a success."
Griffith is optimistic about the event's success. "If we can do this," he said, "then any small library system with a little budget can do this, too."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.