About a year ago, the LaIP co-founders got together with Trent Miller and Jesse Vieau for a talk about an idea for a new Madison Public Library initiative that would offer workshops and programs based on partnerships with community organizations and Madison locals. Their idea blossomed into The Bubbler, a programming model that turns the Madison Public Library into “your place to learn, share and create.” The Bubbler is not unlike initiatives that other libraries are taking on, especially related to makerspaces and community content creation.

So much of what we talk about here on the site is about the learning and creating aspect of this programming model. But what about the sharing? How do the best arts-incubating libraries collect, preserve, and share the work that gets created in all of their amazing maker programs and art workshops? This is my focus today – to present some examples, ideas, and to start getting all of us thinking about ways we can simultaneously celebrate the creativity of our communities and promote our libraries.


A big event can be a nice way to wrap up a festival or program that has been going on at the library for several weeks or months. To wrap up a creative writing contest I hosted one year, we had a finale event where the winners read their stories aloud. I also had the written stories out on tables for visitors to read. This program was based on a kit that Ann Cooksey from the Kenosha Public Library prepared for us.

Other ideas:

  • Will the work be up for a while, as in an exhibition? Kick it off with an opening, like the one USC Libraries hosted to celebrate their Origami Fractal and Community Art program.
  • Don’t let a month-long program sputter out; host a reception like this one at the New London Public Library where community members can come see the work on display.
  • When you host workshops in the library, give the participants a chance to show off the fruits of their labor. Janesville, Wisconsin’s Hedberg Public Library gave local bboys and bgirls the space to demonstrate their breakdancing moves in an exhibition/competition.
Hartford Public Library's ArtWalk gallery space.

Hartford Public Library’s ArtWalk gallery space.


If your library has the space, a gallery is obviously a great way to share the work created by your community. Galleries run the gamut from a soaring open space like ArtWalk at the Hartford Public Library to an art wall like in Ebling Library at UW-Madison. Make sure your library’s gallery coordinator (even if that’s only a small part of their responsibilities!) is listed on your website or in an informational brochure with contact information. If your gallery has a submission process, type it up so that you can send or hand it to an artist if they ask.

As libraries devote more time and energy to hands-on workshops and “maker” activities, it seems that there should be a way to showcase the work by patrons – it’s a great way to promote a new workshop series or makerspace, and people like to share work that they’ve made! Digital “galleries” are a natural option – patrons don’t need to produce an entire show in order to share their work, and libraries don’t need to try and coordinate a physical space to display projects that people probably would rather take home anyway. Note: developing a digital gallery means that you or a kind volunteer needs to take photos of the finished work and then requires some “back end” time uploading the photos, making sure they’re captioned correctly, etc.  

Ideas for digital galleries:

  • Tumblr (consider Lynda Barry’s The Near Sighted Monkey as an example – she often posts artwork made by herself and students)
  • A WordPress or Blogger site – try a magazine layout that allows for lots of visuals.
  • A Pinterest board – try doing a new board for each type of workshop (e.g., 3D printing, Painting, Poetry, etc.)
  • A Facebook album – try doing a new album for each type of workshop
  • Your library’s Instagram or Vine account

Share your ideas

Libraries: we’d love to hear your ideas on the topic of “sharing the work.” What’s worked, what hasn’t, what have you considered and why? What issues need to be considered, especially when it comes to sharing user work online? Post your comments and ideas – and links to your own “sharing space” in the comments section! ~ Laura

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