Wednesday 1 April 2015

Libraries as a Source of Inspiration

Recently Collective Investigations have been working with the visitors of South Lambeth Library to produce an experimental video about handling books. I've also been working at Leeds College of Art library on a new book work created for the venue, as part of their Library Interventions series.

All this work in and for libraries made me question why we go back to them again and again as a creative source.

Could it be the space itself? Although each venue is different, I have been lucky enough to work in some very attractive libraries, particularly the very modern Clapham library (whose collection spirals round a central chamber, much like the Guggenheim Museum in New York) and Senate House library, part of the University of Central London (a space that is grand, but surprisingly intimate - full of wood-panelling and hidden so spaces). A friend once said that books create habitats, so perhaps even the most bland of library spaces are enlivened aesthetically by their collections? 

Clapham Library. Image source: Facebook
Guggenheim Museum. Image source: Wikipedia
Could it be their contents? Am I drawn to the books themselves? This is undoubtedly a factor. To be surrounded by an all-you-can-read supply of books is still an exciting prospect for me. All that potential! Books are always a source of inspiration, whether it's nonfiction (you'll find me in the Self Help section) or the imagination of others - one of the reasons I make books is because I've always been inspired by them. 

Senate House Library. Image source: Wikipedia
Could it be their public nature? I feel like libraries are a place of chance encounter because the visitors who use them and the staff who man them can be so diverse. I feel like I generally move in circles with people from a similar walk of life to me, however libraries can be places for conversation with those from very different backgrounds and viewpoints to my own. Also the collection in a library reflects the local community, introducing me to ideas and perspectives I would never have stumbled upon online or during the course of an ordinary day. 

Could it be their ethos? In principal public libraries are free and open - generally free of charge and accessible to all. What other environments are as egalitarian as this? Coming into a place, sitting down and reading for the afternoon, or taking a book away is a refreshing experience. When I'm between places (between home and work for example) I often find myself in coffee shops. These seem like between-spaces for me, but they come at a price (allbeit a modest one). Perhaps if there were libraries on my way that were open the same hours, I might find myself there! But then, that said, there are not a lot of libraries that could feed my caffeine addiction. 


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