When I was young I wanted to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Maybe I still do.

The library was my key — or perhaps my wand — to making that happen.

I might be biased, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say the library can transport you to an entirely new place.

I’d go as far as to call our library a portal.

This month, Pikes Peak Library District is hosting a “global public art initiative,” a Shared_Studios Portal.

Using shipping containers wisely converted into conversation spaces, folks in the Pikes Peak Region can communicate with people all over the world. The spaces make the conversation feel life-sized, so it feels like you’re really sharing the same space with a stranger, even though that stranger may be in Nairobi or Lagos.

The space is within what looks like a big, metal box you might see on the back of a semi — except it’s painted gold. As you walk in, you’ll face a floor-to-ceiling video screen, making it more than just a glorified Skype or FaceTime conversation. Users say this giant screen makes it feel like you’re really there, talking in the same room to someone you would likely never otherwise meet.

Shared_Studios is the company behind the idea. The goal? Connection.

“When we look up from our phones and speak with someone new, we open new possibilities of understanding,” their website says. “When we witness the diversity of human experience, our lives are made richer, deeper, and more profound.”

Shared_Studios has placed these Portals in a jaw-dropping number of locations. The list includes sites across North America, as well as multiple locations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

One of those locations just so happens to be at Pikes Peak Library District.

The Portal spent a few weeks at Sand Creek Library, where our patrons had conversations, did Zumba, and had a poetry jam with folks from around the globe. Now the portal is outside the soon-to-be-open Calhan Library until July 21. Afterward, it will move to East Library until it’s relocated for the What If ... Festival of Innovation & Imagination (stay tuned to ppld.org for official Portal dates).

Each Portal is staffed by a curator who can help interpret, keep conversations going and help you get over the nervousness that goes along with talking to new people.

The Portal’s appearance in El Paso County has been made possible by Imagination Celebration, a local nonprofit focused on inspiring lifelong learning and creativity. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, Colorado Creative Industries, and the Bree Vradenburg Foundation also partnered alongside PPLD to make it possible.

Many users have called the experience amazing, life-changing even, to talk to someone who might be experiencing something you’ve only heard about on the news. It’s free and open to the public. So what are you waiting for? You just might end up making a friend who’s halfway across the world.

Kayah Swanson is the public relations specialist at Pikes Peak Library District. She’s a former journalist turned nonprofit communicator. Reach Kayah with any questions at kswanson@ppld.org.

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