New Library Program Offers Free Admission to Twin Cities Theaters, Museums

September 15, 2016 12:37 PM

A new pilot program launched Tuesday to help expand people’s horizons and showcase what Twin Cities art organizations have to offer.

The smARTpass Program, offered by the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, is available to anyone in the Twin Cities with a library card. The pilot program launched this week, and the full program will be available in September.

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“The public library has a lot for people who are wanting to learn new things; they attend a lot of programs at the library, take classes at the library, and everything the library offers is free,” MELSA Communications Manager Sally Lederer said. “People pay taxes for the public library, so we feel that they should get their money’s worth and be able to have new experiences.”

The MELSA service area has eight library systems, including Anoka County Library, Carver County Library, Dakota County Library, Hennepin County Library, Ramsey County Library, St. Paul Public Library, Scott County Library and Washington County Library. Lederer says about 2 million people have library cards in the Twin cities.

Under the program, library card holders can visit to find a list of upcoming events taking place throughout the Twin Cities metro area. Library card holders can then opt to reserve two free tickets for an event.

Users can have two active reservations at a time; once they go to an event, the reservation option is back again.

Partnering organizations include the Bell Museum of Natural History, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Stages Theatre Company, the Ordway and other local theaters and museums.

“We have a number of people interested in the arts in the area, so hopefully they can get on here and check out these cool places,” Lederer said.

Once all of the available admissions for an event are reserved, the entry disappears off the website.

Library card holders can reserve one pair of free admission tickets to each of the participating organizations. Lederer said the restriction is because the program is designed to be an introduction to the arts, not to subsidize the admission over and over.

However, in addition to the free events, the website also offers discounted admissions in a separate tab.

“After they’ve made available the number of free admissions that we require for them to be in the program, they can put up a discounted ticket,” Lederer said about the participating organizations.

Lederer said the organizations can watch in real-time how many people are reserving tickets, and then from there the organization can decide to discount more tickets or offer more tickets for free.

“There are good reasons why, if people want to take advantage of it, they should check the website very often,” Lederer said.

The new smARTpass Program replaces a previous program called the Museum Adventure Pass that was offered from 2006-2012. Under that program, library card holders had to physically go to a library branch to claim free tickets.

Lederer said those tickets were also offered on a first come, first served basis, and it was difficult for people who couldn’t get to the library right when it opened each day.

Lederer said they decided to move to a web-based model that will equalize the access for everyone.

The new program also offers performing arts tickets, which weren't available under the previous program because of logistical issues.

Lederer said the program is a benefit to the partnering organizations, which get to introduce their products to new people. The partnering organizations aren’t compensated in any way for their contributions; they are all donating the admissions.

“There’s a lot of cool stuff that we want people to access, and smARTpass is one of the things we think is furthering lifelong learning, which is part of the library’s goal,” Lederer said. “It’s a nice opportunity for people to check out our area arts organizations.”

The pilot program launched Tuesday, and the full program will be rolled out in September. The six-month pilot program will test the admission numbers, check the software and fix any bugs that they come across.

“We like anything that gets people interested in either getting a library card when they don’t have one or people who just haven’t thought of the library for a while or haven’t used it regularly,” Lederer said. “They see the other cool stuff that they can do with it.”


Jennie Lissarrague

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