Contemporary Art and What It Can Tell Us About Our Libraries

kathrynabergeron —  January 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

One of my favorite YouTube shows is The Art Assignment. The general premise of the show is this: Sarah Urist Green (wife of YA author John Green) interviews artists from around the U.S., and the artist gives the viewers an assignment to complete at home. Viewers than complete the assignments and share them on social media with #theartassignment. Assignments have ranged from finger knitting a rug to leaving a message with what you would like to tell the one who got away.

The one that I want to share with you today is Sorted Books. I would tell you what it’s all about, but instead I’ll let Nina Katchadourian do it for me:

Didn’t watch it? Summary: get to know someone through their books.

Specific instructions for you playing at home (stolen from the video):

  1. Choose a person you know or would like to know better
  2. Take a look at/through their library
  3. Make 3 stacks of books to develop a portrait of the person
  4. Upload it to your social media platform of choice using #theartassignment
  5. Fame and glory

Of course, the people that I am most interested in are my patrons. But, since the library is FULL of books, I chose to narrow my focus: I went through the return bins at my library and came up with these three diverse stacks.

Book Stack 1

A harrowing tale of betrayal in a relationship

Book Stack 2

A lazy day with a knowledge.

Book Stack 3

A tale of redemption.

Why am I submitting this to a library leadership blog? It’s simple: when we use a different approach to think about our community and our collections, we have a chance for better collection development and for innovation. Most often, the employees who see our recently returned collections are pages or Circulation clerks, but while they’re thinking about where all of those DVDs go on the shelves (and why management is messing with their organizational system just to take pictures of stacks of items), librarians must think about what those items say about our collections, our patrons, and our libraries.

Also, it’s fun. I think you should try it.

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