activating the library as a space

Image by cwalker71

I’m still buzzing from a conversation I had with Glen Lowry where we brainstormed how the library could be “activated as a space for artistic and research inquiry”.

Right now I work at a small university library at an art and design school. Currently there is no programming happening, which doesn’t seem to be that uncommon for a university library. We have an exhibition space that we let students and classes to show use to show their work. There’s also a small display case upstairs.

The library is used heavily as a place to study, sit and ponder, do group work, and occasionally nap.A   Some weekday afternoons there are students sitting in the stacks because there isn’t enough space. On the weekend the library is used primarily as a safe and comfortable space to work. There is a regular patron, who is professor somewhere else, who is writing his fourth book in our library, and a few other authors have told me that they wrote large chunks of their novels in the study carrels.

I think the library has a huge potential to be utilized as a space for events or programming. We could host readings, like the University of British Columbia’s Robson Square branch has done for the past 7 years. We could bring out some of our artist book collection, that is usually in locked filing cabinets, for people to browse. We could also invite book artists or book arts groups to collaborate with us. We could invite students studying curation to set up exhibitions on our walls. We could set up chairs outside on the street and screen local experimental film, mainstream animation, or carrels of slides on our windows at night time. We could set up a living library. There’s a whole lot of things we could do.

We could invite and encourage students and faculty to make site specific installations, or do site specific performances. One of my coworkers talked about the library as a type of laboratory. I like this word as it implies exploration, investigation, looking for new ways to do things, and learning from failures. I love the idea of experimenting to find new ways of arranging and providing access to our physical and electronic collections.

I love how the Vancouver Public Library has a public art program.A   I especially loved the recent aerial dance performance that utilized the inside concourse and outside walls as a stage.

I’m keen to experiment and activate the library space. Does your university library do any programming? How could your library’s space be utilized in new ways?

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