Saturday, December 31, 2011

Libraries as a Bridge Between the Arts and the People

Libraries are so much more than buildings that house books (or computers for free Internet access). They are also a link between the general public and the artistic community. This link provides entertainment and education to the public, often for free, while giving wider exposure to the creative output of writers, painters, poets, dancers, musicians, and more - all while garnering greater attention for libraries.

Award-winning author Toni Morrison at the New York Public Library in 2010.
photo source:

Underscoring the vital connection between the arts, the people, and libraries is a new project called Library as Incubator. A trio of library school students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison started the project in 2011 in reaction to budget cuts to both the arts and to libraries. They realized that a partnership between libraries and the arts would buoy both and benefit the public. Erinn Batykefer, one of the students who founded Library as Incubator, discussed the project in a Huffington Post article that I've reposted below.

Huffington Post * December 29, 2011

Art Incubators: How Libraries Offer More Than Books

By Erinn Batykefer

What is a library? A good place to go if you like stern, bun-headed women shushing you mercilessly? A place to store soon-to-be-obsolete books? A cultural institution past its prime in a digital age?

If you really spend time in a library - from the the New York Public Library's main branch to Monona Public Library in Monona, WI - you might say that a library is a community center, a place to access the Internet on free public computers or to grab a cup of coffee, even a place to attend an art show, a poetry reading, or a public lecture.

On the Library as Incubator Project website, we want to showcase how libraries do more for their communities than provide free access to books; we're interested in how they foster lifelong learning and creativity, and how they can (and do!) incubate the arts. Libraries provide tangible services to their communities every year; in Wisconsin, for example, they return $4.06 worth of materials and services for every tax dollar that's invested, raising property values and literacy at the same time.

Libraries can be an office, a gallery, a performance space, even a studio. Take, for example, the ArtWalk gallery space in the Hartford Public Library in Hartford, CT, which will be featured on the site soon. It's a gorgeous, spacious exhibition area attached to the library. The library integrates programming, book displays, and special events to complement ArtWalk exhibitions. This provides not only professional development for the featured artists, but also arts education and literacy development for all ages. Or consider the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, which hosted British artist Stephen Wiltshire while he drew a panorama of the city earlier this month. Hundreds of library-goers were on hand to observe him, ask questions, and simply be in the presence of artistic work in the making.

Not every library can build an exhibition area, and not every library has the space to act as a drawing studio, but every library can provide resources for local artists and writers, and work to connect their communities to the arts. Libraries can offer programs like scary story Halloween writing contests for children and young adults. They can connect with local writers or artists (many of whom who teach at schools and colleges) to host poetry or drawing workshops. They can link to image-rich resources on their websites and promote art and design books to their patrons with book displays and reading lists. No matter the scale, libraries have the capacity to connect their communities to the arts in meaningful ways.

It was no accident that The Library as Incubator Project was born during the massive Wisconsin budget protests of 2011. The state budget was undergoing a significant restructuring, which included substantial cuts to libraries and prominent publicly funded arts organizations. At that point, we started to realize that our grand idea - the idea of promoting the library-as-incubator - might be more than just a pet project for a trio of library school students. We realized that libraries functioning as arts incubators could provide the spaces and materials necessary to sustain the artistic and creative work of writers, illustrators, painters, photographers, poets, playwrights, and performing artists of all kinds when local and state governments took an axe to the arts budget.

With vital programs like poetry fellowships and arts residencies on the chopping block, a library can fill those gaps for artists in the community by proving space to work, collections of inspiring and practical materials, and collaborative support. We saw real potential for libraries to come to the fore as arts incubators in the same way that they have become job-search hubs by providing Internet access, resume workshops, and job search materials for many, many job seekers during this recession.

Librarians and artists of all stripes know that these kinds of partnerships are forming naturally all over the place. At The Library as Incubator Project, we simply hope to offer a "hub" for conversation and communication, and in so doing, promote new and deeper partnerships that will change the answer to our initial question:

What is a library? It's place to connect and create.

Read more at, connect with us on Facebook (Library as Incubator Project), or follow us on Twitter: IArtLibraries.

A Rare Peek at Stanford Libraries' Apple Inc. Archives

The world's largest collection of Apple Inc. artifacts can be found at the libraries of Stanford University.

In 1997, Apple donated "documents, hardware, software, videotapes, memorabilia and artifacts [that] encompass the business and technological history of the company" to Stanford, according to a press release issued by the university in November of that year. These materials were originally intended for an Apple museum, plans for which were axed upon Steve Jobs's return to the company in 1997.

As impressive as the Apple Archives are, they are not available for viewing by the general public. Thankfully, the Associated Press videotaped its recent tour of the collection. You can watch below.

Associated Press * December 30, 2011

Inside the Apple Archives at Stanford Libraries

By David Peskovitz

In 1997, Apple gifted the Stanford University Libraries its historical collections of paperwork, hardware, software, artifacts, and other materials documenting the organization since Woz and Jobs founded it in 1976. The Associated Press toured the collection. No, it's not available for public viewing.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NYPL, Other Libraries Find Success with foursquare

The New York Public Library recently reminded its fans on Facebook that they can check in at NYPL locations on foursquare. I didn't even know it had a presence on the location-based social networking site.

The NYPL's Foursquare "Centennial" badge.
image source:

After doing a bit of research, I learned the New York Public Library partnered with foursquare in March as a way to both publicize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street. Users of foursquare who checked in at NYPL locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island could unlock a special "Find the Future Centennial" badge from the library. The badge was "the first ever awarded to a public library," stated the NYPL in a press release dated March 30, 2011.

Two patrons, Emily Vargas and Tracy Musacchio, unlocked the badge by checking in at the Schwarzman Building more than 10 times. They talk about their love of the NYPL and foursquare in this video:

Increasingly, other library systems across the country and around the world are teaming up with foursquare to stay connected with patrons for whom social networking is second nature. In the wake of the New York Public Library's success with foursquare, NYPL's e-communications manager Johannes Neuer granted an interview to the Routledge Library Newsletter, in which he discussed foursquare and how it could work for your library. A slide presentation of this interview is below.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Library of Congress to Archive, Analyze All Tweets

The Library of Congress, in a deal made with Twitter, will archive every public tweet ever sent. Why? "To find and analyse interesting trends" through the public's use of this social medium, according to the Daily Mail article below.

Tweets will be put under a magnifying glass.
image source:

"There have been studies involved with what are the moods of the public at various times of day in reaction to certain kinds of news events," said Bill Lefurgy, of the Library of Congress. "There's all these interesting kinds of mixing and matching that can be done using tweets as a big set of data."

If everyone knew that their tweets would ultimately be housed underneath the same roof as the Declaration of Independence, perhaps a few would have communicated something more erudite than, "I spent the last hour molding a little man out of Starbursts and now I have to explain to him about death."*

* An actual tweet, from

Daily Mail (UK) * December 8, 2011

Library of Congress to Archive Every Tweet Ever Made

By Daily Mail Reporter

If you were thinking that tweet you just sent would soon disappear into the ether, you couldn't be more wrong.

It will soon be stored alongside Thomas Jefferson's draft of the American Declaration of Independence and a Gutenberg Bible.

That's because every public tweet sent since Twitter was launched five-and-a-half years ago is to be archived by America's national library.

Billions of tweets will be archived,
including the very first - sent by
Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey.

The Library of Congress announced the deal with Twitter last year, but yesterday its digital initiatives manager shone more light on the project.

'We have an agreement with Twitter where they have a bunch of servers with their historic archive of tweets, everything that was sent out and declared to be public,' said Bill Lefurgy when he appeared on Federal News Radio's Federal Drive show yesterday.

The archive will be available to Mr. Lefurgy's team of researchers, to find and analyse interesting trends.

'There have been studies involved with what are the moods of the public at various times of the day in reaction to certain kinds of news events.

'There’s all these interesting kinds of mixing and matching that can be done using the tweets as a big set of data.'

And with more than 140 million tweets processed by Twitter every single day, the social networking site has its work cut out with the Library project.

'They've had to do some pretty nifty experimentation and invention to develop the tools and a process to be able to move all of that data over to us,' Mr. Lefurgy said.

Innovative: The first-ever tweet was sent on March 21, 2006.

The archives won't contain tweets that users have protected, but every other message will be stored there - including the very first, sent by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

His tweet, sent on March 21, 2006, simply said: 'Just setting up my twttr.'

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections.

It was built in 1800 and is housed in three buildings in the capital, Washington, D.C.

As well as a rough draft of the American Declaration of Independence and a Gutenberg Bible, the Library holds Thomas Jefferson's entire personal book collection.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Study Finds Library Is Sole Source of Internet for Many

At least 20 percent of people without broadband service at home depend on their local branch of the public library for access to the Internet, reported the Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in a study released last month. This is hardly surprising to anyone who has visited a public library recently.

The New York Public Library's Rose Main Reading Room provides free Internet access.
photo source:

At almost every branch of the New York Public Library that I've been to in the last ten years, the busiest area was the room with the computers. It was obvious that for many, the library was the only place they could go to use a computer (and thus, access the Internet). A noticeable number seemed to be using the computers to search for jobs and brush up resumes.

So, the fact that for many people, "the public library is the sole source for free access to computers and the Internet" is not really news. The real story is what this means for libraries. In an age where there is still very much a digital divide, the public library is as important as ever to keeping communities connected and thus should be safeguarded as the institution it truly is.

Libraries Connect Communities * November 17, 2011

New Study on Internet Use at Home Ties to the Impact of Libraries

photo source:

By Judy

In casual conversation with family and friends, questions regarding the need for and future of libraries continue to come up. While presenting stats on increased circulation and visits are somewhat of a surprise, what really gets jaws to drop is the fact that almost one-third of Americans do not have high speed internet access at home. Those in the conversation quickly grasp the challenges faced by the “have-nots.” This is always a great tie-in when highlighting the importance of libraries in providing essential services and bridging the digital divide.

Earlier this month the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released: Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home. No surprise that the digital divide still exists between different racial and ethnic groups and between urban and rural areas in the U.S. But the report notes that socio-economic differences, such as income and education, explain much-but not all – of this divide.

The study has so much rich information, with many illuminating graphs, that I’ll forgo listing out highlights and just recommend that you download the study. The study does report that at least 20 percent of individuals without broadband service at home rely on public libraries for access.

Following is the study’s snapshot of home Internet access:

So when libraries come up in the discussion around the holiday table, remember to share the big numbers, including the fact that in 65% of communities, the public library is the sole source for free access to computers and the Internet (73% in rural communities). Trust me, you’ll see those jaws dropping.

No Shushing in Libraries' High-Tech Areas for Teens

For teenagers, it's not cool to say that you're going to hang out at the library. Many public libraries are working hard to change their "unhip" status by adding high-tech areas to attract young patrons. The addition of these areas counteracts that long-held notion that the library is strictly a place for silent study.

More public libraries are toning
down the shushing and turning
up the volume to attract youths.
photo source:

The Chicago Public Library implemented a YOUMedia lab stocked with video games and recording equipment that attracts nearly a hundred teenagers every day. Other libraries, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, are following suit. See the Huffington Post article below for more on how today's public libraries are toning down the shushing and turning up the volume to attract young patrons.

Huffington Post * November 29, 2011

Public Libraries Turn Up the Volume (Literally)

By Lucas Kavner

As public libraries continue their quest to stay relevant in the wake of cuts to their funding and decreased popularity, some are greatly altering their set-ups and making moves to appeal to a younger crowd.

A makeover at the Chicago Public Library has turned one room into a teen-heaven, stacking the "YOUMedia" lab on the ground floor with video game systems, recording equipment, snacks and beanbag chairs. According to an article in Connecticut's "The Day," this lab, which has been open since 2009, draws up to a hundred teenagers daily. They come to record podcasts, shoot videos and hang around after school.

Though all libraries still contain cordoned-off quiet areas for study and reading, many city public libraries are dialing back on the whole "Silence Is Golden" conceit they've long been known for. Twelve other libraries across the country have plans to open similar "high-tech" areas for teens in 2012, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and others already feature coffee bars, CD listening stations, screening rooms, and other kinds of play centers.

In the UK, they've been cranking up the volume even more. The award-winning Get It Loud In Libraries
program has been active since 2005, aiming to showcase up-and-coming bands in libraries across Lancashire. Their mission: to allow "kids from 5 to 65 to check out bands at close quarters in a book clad feelgood venue before they hit the proverbial big time."

Some of these changes have drawn criticisms from library purists. Writing for the City Room blog in the New York Times in April of last year, Sung J. Woo lamented the days of studying and reading in silence. The communal desks have now been "transformed," Woo wrote, "into an open forum for children and adults to chat away as if they were hanging out at Starbucks."

Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, helped fund the YOUMedia room in Chicago and believes that changes like these help kids engage with their environments. She says that library users can likely expect more personal and digital interaction in the years to come.

"Kids are very productive in these rooms," she said.