Arts in the Libraries 02.04.2019

Libraries, or more specifically Finnish library architecture, seem to have occupied most of my professional life lately. Most recently, on 9 March 2019, I had a great pleasure to attend a super exciting symposium in New York. The event titled Code, Craft & Catalogues: Arts in the Libraries examined the roles which arts and design have – and can have – as a part of the library institution and library services. The talks presented concrete art projects, innovative library policies and other inspiring, pragmatic examples of how libraries can actively engage with artists and produce thought-provoking works that encourage thinking, learning and community participation.

Arts in the Libraries. Photo: Anni Vartola
Zine making in the Arts in the Libraries event in New York on 9 March, 2019. Photo: Anni Vartola.

The mastermind behind the event was Shannon Mattern, Professor in the Department of Anthropology at The New School in New York, and you can read more about the event on her blog at wordsinspace.net/shannon/code-craft-catalogues-arts-in-the-libraries-2019. When thinking back to what I learned, I think that public libraries are re-inventing and re-defining their roles as community hubs. Most importantly, the younger generation is embracing the public space in our public libraries in a completely new, liberal manner.

Thanks to the event hosts at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the symposium was fully documented and you can watch the videos of the presentations online. My 15-minute talk can be found here, starting at 3:08. The images don’t quite sync, and I look like an old, half-dead bat (as always), but hopefully, the message comes clear. Art matters, libraries matter, and library architecture matters.

PS. I naturally visited a few bookstores whilst in New York. And I didn’t leave empty-handed. I also managed to see the stunning Hilma af Klint exhibition at Guggenheim, the intriguing Jan Tschichold and the New Typography exhibition at the Bard Graduage College (bought the catalogue!), and visit the equally stunning Morgan Library and Museum. One word: wow.

Housing Works bookstore and cafe on Crosby Street. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Housing Works bookstore and cafe on Crosby Street. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Architecture books at Strand on Broadway. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Architecture books at Strand on Broadway. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Amazing Morgan library. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Amazing Morgan library – both architecture-wise and collection-wise. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Hilma af Klint's studies of national symbols for Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and the Baltic States. Photo: Anni Vartola
Hilma af Klint’s studies of national symbols for Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and the Baltic States. Photo: Anni Vartola
Graphics on display at the Jan Tschichold exhibition at Bard Graduate College. Photo: Anni Vartola.
Graphics on display at the Jan Tschichold exhibition at Bard Graduate College. Photo: Anni Vartola.