This article originally appeared in September 2013.

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


Painting is from the Earley painters, a local Arts group, they each painted an individual blue square to make up the finished piece

Art in the Library: We’re not an Art gallery, we’re a Library…and that’s a good thing

by Laura Doggett

My favourite Art in the Library moment so far was meeting a lady called Jenny. I was running a family craft session taking book artist Susan Blackwell as inspiration. Over the afternoon I had time to get to know Jenny and she told me that she had come into the Library earlier that week because she had been feeling very low and wanted somewhere quiet to sit and think. She had seen the advert for the crafts and decided to come along. I’m so glad she did! I showed Jenny some of the books I had about Book Art. Straight away she choose a project and set to work making a beautiful cat. Jenny had come to the Library feeling so down, but she left full of enthusiasm about what she’d made . . . . and it didn’t end there. I was able to lend her the book and give her some of the spare materials so she could carry on making projects at home. Three weeks later Jenny came in to renew the book and told me about the Lion she was working on, and how she had used some of the children’s activities I’d been doing with her grandchildren.


And this is why I love Libraries!  Libraries make everyone feel welcome. The Library is neutral and it doesn’t judge, it welcome’s you whether you want to research your dissertation, find a book for your holiday or like Jenny have somewhere quiet to sit and think.

As a Library Assistant I get to know my patrons well, I see the same faces week after week year after year and through the books they take and the conversations that leads to, I get to know them. I know their favourite authors, I know the latest find in their family history search, their newest hobby or the news they’re expecting a baby.

This welcoming environment and understanding of our community creates a unique space to nurture the Arts, we are not just a space of consumption of Art; we have the potential to encourage creation as well.

Where a gallery might not show Mrs Wallis’ watercolours, as she is not a professional Artist, I can put her in my programme. Her painting is beautiful because she enjoyed making it so much and the happiness she gets from the exhibition is invaluable. However the next month I can feature exciting work from a professional artist, or experiment with installation from a yarn bombing knitter. I love that showing artwork from professionals has the potential to inspire the community to try their hand at being creative themselves. And when they do want to become creators we can support that through workshops, how to books and pointing them in the direction of local clubs and courses.

We’re not an Art gallery, we’re a Library . . .and that’s a good thing

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:

Click here to access the Art in the Library Survey.

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 and my phone number is 07828299435.


P1010478Laura 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. Visit her online at her blog: and on Twitter: @Laura_Frances_D

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