This post originally appeared on the Library as Incubator Project in October, 2011.

Brian P. Hall received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his fiction and essays have appeared in the Palo Alto Review, Lullwater Review, The G.W Review, Exquisite Corpse, Shadowbox, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among others.

How do you identify yourself as an artist (e.g., writer, poet, painter, playwright, mixed media, illustration, etc.) and what kind of work do you do?

Fiction and creative nonfiction.

What is/has been your relationship to libraries?

As a writer who relies on the works of others for inspiration, my relationship to libraries is essential, so we–libraries and I–are allies, working together for the creative good.

Have libraries informed or inspired your work, and if so, how?

Yes. This is a difficult question to answer because I’m an intellectual grazer. At a library I will walk around the stacks and pull books to read or skim. Sometimes then, I find inspiration in a passage. Sometimes a picture in an art collection. Sometimes the ramblings of a homeless man in front of the library could influence something I’m working on. It is a complete experience.

What specific libraries have played a role in your work? Are there things about these libraries (staff, spaces, collections, programs, etc.) that stand out to you as particularly useful or inspiring?

Two main things: 1) art: I love looking at collections, especially photographs; 2) work spaces with a) a lot of natural light b) an outlet for my computer c) wifi that allows me to access the resources the library may offer (such as access to any digitized collections).

What resources do you use in your library?

Reference materials. Research databases. These are the two I use most often

How do you find out about resources, events, or services at your library?


What can libraries do to serve artists?

Continue to have spaces mentioned with light, plugs, and wifi, and have private spaces or rooms to use as creative playgrounds or sandboxes or whatever you want to call them. When I write, I’m extemely visual. If there is a place with dry erase walls or boards to map ideas, I would stay at the library longer.

As an artist, what would your ideal library look or be like?

A combination of the things I’ve mentioned that could serve artists, plus an area that highlights local artists’ work.

What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?

A place to mature ideas.


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