Todd Michael Cox is a writer from Wisconsin. His novel After the Death of the Ice Cream Man came out in July. He took our survey in the summer of 2011.
How do you identify yourself as an artist, and what kind of work do you do?
What is/has been your relationship to libraries?
I use them much more than I did when I was younger (I’m forty). I rarely went to the public library in my hometown, but now I use them frequently… although, to be honest, my wife is a library director and I usually end up getting materials from her library through her, rather than going there myself (it’s in a different town from where we live).
Have libraries informed or inspired your work, and if so, how?
The library in my hometown, despite my rarely using it, served as the model for the library in my novel, “Dizzlemuck,” where it played a small but significant role: it was a place in which the main character makes several revelations. (That library was also kind enough to take a copy of the book, which was nice).
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?
Farnsworth Public Library (Oconto, WI.) West Bend Library (West Bend, WI) Town Hall Library (Merton, WI)
What resources do you use in your library?
Books, DVDs, the knowledge of a good librarian.
How do you find out about resources, events, or services at your library?
My wife being the director of one, I hear it from her. (I also follow a few on the web).
What can libraries do to serve artists?
Create a space that is conducive to creative thoughts. This means not only having the resources a creative person might need (books, etc) but also an environment that places one in a safe and comfortable mind-set. Atmosphere is everything. Some libraries have all the personality of a dentist’s office, while others are like someone’s living room. The latter is infinitely preferable for the act of creating/thinking… unless, of course, you’re a dentist.
As an artist, what would your ideal library look or be like?
Lots of wood, pleasantly-worn carpeting, comfortable chairs of the sort you can sleep in. A fireplace if possible. Smell of coffee and the sound of quiet humming. A library staff who knows why you’re there and gives you the space to do what you need to do… while also being interested in your work. Old books. Windows with views of lush trees and flowers and birds… and which, when opened (they must be able to be opened!), let in the sound of birds and crickets and frogs, rather than traffic or screaming kids. Does such a place exist? Let me know if it does and I will be moving….
What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?
The library as a place to not only nurture creative pursuits, but also to start the spark that will give birth to them.
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