We first spoke with Rebecca a couple years ago about her artistic and creative endeavors, but we knew that we had to talk to her again once we saw her AMAZING Libraries are for Everyone images! Enjoy! -Holly

LAIP: What has changed in your artistic or library life since the last time we spoke?

Wow! What a trip down memory lane! LAIP gave me my very first interview as an artist-librarian and it was incredibly thrilling! First time around I was all “Kermit arm flailing,” and this time it feels sort of like coming home – all warm ‘n fuzzy-like. And revisiting that article three years later? I’m like, “oh girl, you had no idea what was coming! Ha!”

But to answer your actual question, I think the two biggest changes have been that I’ve let go of a lot of the creative doing at my library. Natasia, a wildly talented teammate who surpasses me in artistic ability, has taken on the responsibility of turning our ideas into beautifully creative reality. We all brainstorm, and then she creates – it’s a joy to witness. With our Library Director getting us signed up for a free-for-libraries Canva account, everyone has jumped into making posters and flyers for their events. And they look awesome!!! I mainly serve as editor if someone wants my opinion on their sign. That’s taken a great deal off of my plate so that I can pursue other creative endeavors.  

 

LAIP: We LOVE your libraries are for everyone images! Can you tell us a little bit about how they came to be? What is your process for making each image?

Their origin is something that I absolutely hold dear to my heart. On February 1 Ashley Jones, Adult Programmer at Saline County Public Library in Arkansas, sent me an email asking if it was okay to use some of my artwork for signs at their Legislative Day. Of course I said “HECK YEAH!” Then, I heard from SCPL’s User Experience Manager Julie Syler. She basically Kermit Arm Flailed at me, but also showed me her first draft of the signs they were making and asked for feedback. I share it now with her permission (which is incredibly brave, because I can assure you that no one’s first drafts look very good):

I took one look at it and knew that what she was going for was a beautiful thing. I also knew how to adjust it. I think it took me five minutes to do a mock-up of the signs that have now been shared worldwide. I posted our collaboration that very evening and the next day my life had changed as a result.

And here’s the thing: these signs would have NEVER happened if those librarians hadn’t reached out to me. I hadn’t planned to do anything with the alternative art I had created for this year’s Collaborative Summer Library Program beyond using them for our library’s summer programs. I’m not sure how Julie came up with that powerful phrase, but I love it. And obviously others love it too. I am a strong believer in Open Culture and collaborative teamwork, and I feel like these signs show the power of those beliefs. Ashley and Julie shared with me, I shared with them, and then we shared with everyone – and now others are sharing what we created in so many wonderful and various ways.

Added bonus? Julie and I are now dear friends.

Making each image is really boring. I have a base template that I work off of with two Text sections above the image layer, and one Text line below the image. When I get a translation, I put the words into the template in what translates the most closely as well as keeping in mind that it needs to look nice. That’s as artistic as this process gets. Then it’s a very assembly-line type process where I drag in images and fill in background colors. Thrilling – right?!

LAIP: Do you see your artwork as “political?” How would you respond to someone saying that libraries shouldn’t be political?

In my mind, I have created one intentionally political piece, and that’s Librarian Bomber:

If you know what this piece is based on, then it gains even more depth.

But my popular Libraries Are For Everyone signs? Not once while I was creating them did I think it was political beyond it being used for a specific library’s legislative day. I was creating these cool diversity-embracing/welcoming signs that would also tie into the CSLP’s 2017 theme of Build a Better World. But within 24 hours of posting the signs, I realized that I had obliviously created some very strong social justice images. Sorry if I’ve ruined your imagined vision of me being a brilliant butt-kicking librarian 24/7.

The most devastating political change I’ve witnessed over the years is seeing the division of Church and State become weakened if not completely torn down. When media outlets tout being “fair and balanced” while they put their agenda-focused thumbs on the scale? It makes the role of librarian a political one because “fake news” and twisted information is something that librarians should be against.  Librarians have a code of ethics that should be followed and honored every single day. Librarians should stand up against censorship, whether it be against books or against people who have different beliefs.

I say that they should stand up because we haven’t always. One of the most painful and blatant example of librarian censorship began at 1969’s ALA Conference with Tomi Ungerer. Learning about Ungerer’s work being banned by the ALA was a shock. I am so proud that in more recent times censorship is challenged and discussed more often with the first amendment being our foundation. But, we risk sliding backwards if those who refuse to understand the separation of Church and State, or who feel threatened that others want equal rights, start dictating how libraries should be run. And the first step on holding our ground is acknowledging that we are political when it comes to defending people’s rights – no matter your ability, your looks, your language, your religious beliefs, etc – to visit the library while giving you the freedom to read whatever you’d want.

Although I had not created my LAFE signs with politics in mind, today’s political climate makes them so. Therefore I have and will continue to stand firmly behind their message whether viewed through a political or artistic lens.

 

LAIP: How do you want other librarians to use your work? What are some of the most exciting ways you’ve seen it shared?

I want other librarians to use my work in any way that they’d like! That’ part of the joy of Creative Commons. The more creative, the better! And again, remember that my LAFE signs are a result of a creative librarian using some of my work and remixing it – that, by far, has been the most exciting way any of my art has ever been shared. The other was when a school librarian turned some of my LAFE signs into a coloring sheet and writing prompt.

 

LAIP: Anything else you want to share?

Keep up the good fight! Take your talents (artistic or otherwise) and share them with others – you never know what good can come from an unexpected collaboration.

 

Thanks Rebecca! Make sure to check out all ( at least 50!) translations of the Libraries are for Everyone images on Rebecca’s blog.

 

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