We were delighted when Laura Doggett got in touch recently– not only is she pioneering a series of arts programs at her home library in England, she’s also writing a dissertation about the phenomenon! She will be sharing her experience at Woodley Library on the LAIP site as she conducts more in-depth research for the next few months; if you’re a UK librarian with experience in arts programming, please consider getting in touch with Laura to share your story! Details at the end of this post. Cheers! ~Erinn
by Laura Doggett
Woodley Library is a Public Library in Berkshire, England, and it was here I found my first job as a Library Assistant after completing my degree in Contemporary Fine Art. In 2010 I pitched the idea of holding exhibitions in the Library and Art in the Library was born.
The project has grown from an exhibition space at one Library to it’s current iteration at two Libraries, with a third to follow. It has also expanded to exploring other community Arts projects, working with Care homes, mental health groups and children, workshops, performances, and demonstrations.
I keep a little Blog about it all HERE.
I feel the Library has a unique role to play in the Arts and that a relationship with your local Arts community is of huge benefit to the Library and the people it serves. I would really encourage anyone considering hosting exhibitions in their Library to go for it, as a simple exhibition area, and the connections it creates, can easily lead to other exciting opportunities.
I have shared the Top Tips I have gathered from my experiences. I hope they will be helpful.
- Have a mission statement. If you’re not clear on what you want your Arts programme to be, it isn’t gonna happen! It will also help you keep consistency if your programme spreads across Library branches. If possible, it is also nice to have a name and logo for your exhibitions, as it will make it easier to raise awareness of your programme.
- Get involved! You need to immerse yourself in your local Arts community, go to exhibitions, Arts trails and private views. Talk to people and swap cards.
- Always continue to cultivate these relationships. A good way to do this is to demonstrate the Library’s support of the Arts community be helping to promote their events. It’s so easy to display a poster or re-tweet exhibition details, but it reminds people you care about Culture in your community.
- Ask artists to apply for your exhibition space via email, with a short artist statement and images of their work. This is useful because it provides material for any publicity you organise, but more importantly it is far less embarrassing than people turning up at your Library with Artwork for you to look at in person (I’m afraid this does still happen!).
- Have an ‘information for exhibitors’ form for artists to sign. This can explain all they need to know about exhibiting with you, but also include a disclaimer that explains the Library cannot be responsible for the Artwork.
- If you can, be available to help artists set up and take down their work. This is a great chance to get to know the artist and possibly see if there are further projects you can work on together. I think it’s always nice to offer a cup of tea.
- Look after your exhibition space. If you can invest in a hanging system then I would recommend this one. It’s affordable, but easy to use and surprisingly sturdy. If you can’t buy a hanging system then you need to look after your walls from the beginning! You will get amazing with polyfiller. Do this after every exhibition. Artists will be thankful you are presenting them with a blank canvas. Your walls will be thankful they don’t look like Swiss cheese.
- Have fun! Creating an Arts programme and meeting lots of different creative people is really exciting. Enjoy it! Your enthusiasm will come across, and people will want to work with you. Eventually, through word of mouth, you won’t need to look for Artists, they will come to you.
Are you a librarian in the UK?
I would like to ask your help with my current Masters dissertation titled, The Artist in the Library: A case study of benefits of Public Library engagement with the Artistic community. I’m doing a survey of UK Libraries and their engagement with the Arts, so if you work in a UK Library please take a moment to fill it out:
I am also looking for Libraries who are running innovative Arts projects in the UK that I can use for Case studies; if your Library is doing something exciting please get in touch– I would love to talk to you! My email email@example.com and my phone number is 07828299435.
Laura Frances Doggett received her Degree in Contemporary Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University in 2009 where she made artwork on ideas of collections, nostalgia and melancholy. She then went on to work as a Library assistant at Woodley Library and a Duty Manager at Reading Museum. At Woodley Library she has set up and runs the Art in the Library programme of exhibitions and events. Laura is currently completing her Masters in Information Management in the Cultural sector and is focusing her research on relationships between Libraries and the Arts.Pin It