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Sequoya Public Library, Madison WI

Katharine Clark, a Library Assistant at Sequoya Public Library in Madison WI, talks about the library’s relationship with local artists and the ways Sequoya works to support and incubate the arts.

Does your library offer arts-related programs or services?  If so, who is the target audience for these programs?

Yes, we offer gallery space for artists to show their work and also art classes for children.   The audience would be the general public for the exhibits and families for the art classes.

Do you ever promote resources specifically for artists and/or writers? For example: a display of art technique how-to books, craft books, oversize art books, or art resource bibliographies?

People love our book displays.  In the past, we have created ones about photography, knitting and other crafts. The “Learn to Draw” display up in our kid’s room right now is hard to keep full because kids keep checking out all the books!

Does your library function as an art gallery or performance space in any way? What kinds of works or performances have you featured?

Yes, we have wonderful, big wall spaces to fit artwork. Since we opened in our new space three years ago we have had photography, quilts, oil paintings, papier-mâché sculpture, three dimensional art made from books (Cover to Cover exhibit), felt art, and framed posters from the Dane County Cultural Commission.

We don’t solicit artists’ work– they just see art displayed and come to us.  We accept most everything, keeping in mind this is as public space used by all ages.  At the moment, Joan Zieger’s artwork is on display.

Fabric artist Joan Zieger's work in situ at Sequoya Public Library

Have you noticed artists using your library?  What types of services and/or resources do they generally use?  Do they usually seem to find what they’re looking for at your library?

We have had local students come in and take pictures of the unique architectural features that are all over our branch. We also book our meeting space for board meetings of local art guilds, like the spinning and knitting guilds of Madison. We have one local artist that uses us on a regular basis to search out images for him to use in projects, he’s been using Sequoya for years as his personal research assistant!

Do you consider yourself an artist, either professionally or casually? Have you used your library or other libraries for your own creative work, and if so, how?

Like many other teenagers I dabbled in drawing and writing during high school. I haven’t used our resources personally, but I think my early creative interest helps me keep the artist community in mind when working on new displays or programs.

What kind of additional services to artists and writers would you like to see at your library?

It would be nice to have a display case or area where we could showcase 3-D art the way some other branches do. I would love to start some sort of collaboration with area high schools and their art programs to feature young artist’ work in our Teen Areas.  It would be great to start those networks early and put the idea of “libraries as incubators”  in the minds of young people.

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

It means that the library is a place to be creative, a place to be inspired and a place to foster artists and their creative process.


“He loves me, He loves me not” from Joan Zieger’s ‘Ladies of a Certain Mileage’ series on display at Sequoya Public Library, fall 2011
“Madame Flutterby” from Joan Zieger’s ‘Ladies of a Certain Mileage’ series on display at Sequoya Public Library, fall 2011

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