Earlier this year, a UK researcher named Laura Doggett got in touch. She’s not only pioneering a series of arts programs at her home library in England, she’s also writing a dissertation about the phenomenon! She’s 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
Art in the Library: Artists and Librarians, we make a great team
by Laura Doggett
Through organising the Art in the Library programme I have met many amazing Artists. I have seen first hand that the energy and enthusiasm of the Arts community often mirrors that of Library staff, and furthermore both groups often have shared goals such as promoting culture, lifelong learning, and social well-being.
For my Library, the connections I have made with artists have led to lots of exciting projects. A good example was meeting a lady called Lisa-Marie Gibbs: Lisa is a beautiful artist but also a beautiful person who channels her creativity into Arts therapy roles. I met Lisa at Berkshire Nursing home where I was delivering books and where she leads creative projects with the residents.
Getting to know Lisa led to ‘The Old Bags’ of Berkshire nursing home holding an exhibition of their paintings at the Library, but the connection also meant Lisa got in touch with me about one of her other projects: the yellow suitcase. The project is run by Lisa and her friends at an Art group she holds to support people who have suffered with issues of mental health. The yellow suitcase is their way of spreading information and awareness of mental health; it is quite simply a suitcase full of leaflets and phone numbers, but it is also a way of letting people know they are not alone. We hosted the project at three Libraries, where the suitcase was on display and Lisa and her friends came to talk to people.
This sort of project really demonstrates the potential synergy of Artists and Libraries, with Artists being able to find interesting, attention-grabbing ways of presenting ideas and the library acting as a gateway into the community.
However based on this personal experience I believe these relationships are very fragmented, often centred around individual enthusiastic Library staff prepared to involve themselves in their local Arts community. I’ve decided to investigate further and will be researching the topic for my Masters dissertation titled ‘The Artist in the Library: A case study of benefits of Public Library engagement with the Artistic community’.
I am interested in how such partnerships and engagement with Arts communities can be of benefit to Public Libraries. At a local level– how this engagement can fulfill policy requirements and allow Libraries to better serve their communities. At a National Level how this relationship could influence future policy making, possibly redefining the role of the Library.
I’m conducting a survey of UK Libraries and their engagement with the Arts; so if you work in a UK Library please fill this survey 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 is firstname.lastname@example.org 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. Visit her online at her blog: http://artinthelibrary.