What's an artist librarian?

When I've applied to everything librarian-related, I talk about my background as an artist. It's become a certain litany, though I haven't been creating as much art as I'd look to. I have many half-finished ideas lying here or there, and I mostly have my past and future as an artist to guide me in my assertion that I'm an artist-librarian. I'm not really sure what that is yet. Does that mean owning this URL and having art projects on it and a separate page for librarian activities? Does it mean being librarian by day and artist by night? Or - can it possibly mean a beautiful union of my ideals in librarianship and art?! Now in my first job as a librarian I'm trying to sculpt what that means. I became a librarian because I think the library is the perfect container to involve people daily in creative practices that connect them to each other and to big ideas. And art is the perfect tool to help people imagine what it is they want and be creative about how to get there. That sounds so great in theory but I don't know what it means on a day-to-day level, where I also have to make sure I'm doing my job well.

I'm starting to get an inkling about what it could mean, as I learn more about the community I work in and my library. It could mean encouraging creative, messy, and open ended arts projects in a place where achievement-based projects are valued. It could mean finding a way to educate people in what it means to be making community-based materials instead of consuming what is produced. It could mean encouraging participation in politics, culture, and all the intersections in between.

I think what drew me to the arts was the openness of the field. Artists I admire are trying to be themselves and do their work in the most authentic way they can, and the field (sometimes) has room for those people to try and fail, and follow their ideas and passions. In my ideal world, I see a place where all people feel that feeling - that their work is valued and they are following their interests (passions? joys? what is a good word for that?) and that those interests are generally helpful to other people. Maybe I can bring some of that framework into the library.

I need to look to mentors/artist librarians I admire for ideas as well.

  • Jane McGonigal - gamification! play! in the library!
  • Art as Incubator people - helping people see the library as a place for creation, and really supporting and encouraging everyone's brilliant work
  • Dr. Kylie Peppler - works on play, arts, and learning in ways that relate so much to libraries.
  • I think it's a good sign that these recent posts have felt so question-based - it's like I'm in my early 20s again! I'm in my career second puberty.