library love

Posted by on Feb 22, 2011 in Maine College of Art | 2 comments

“Most people don’t realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn’t value its librarians doesn’t value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?” — Neil Gaiman

This quote comes currently with any e-mail from Moira Steven, the enthusiastic librarian at the Joanne Waxman Library at Maine College of Art. I love books, and thus libraries, and in Moira I’ve found a robust guide and kindred spirit.

Here she is in her office with eclectic objects of affection.

Moira was gung ho about my library scavenger hunt project for IL 206, the second semester of a sophomore illustration course. I talk about digging deep for researching illustration projects, but too often students rely solely on Google. Sure, it’s a handy resource, but it’s only one very filtered resource. Quick, but not always satisfying.

I’ve done this project before in a 2D class, borrowed from the brilliant artist and educator, Rob Lieber. Basically, it involves tracing a found element and creating a linear collage, on the spot. I’ve brought in my peculiar collection of contemporary and vintage magazines to the classroom, for students to browse, trace, and swap, creating a cumulative composition on impulse. It’s a direct method to focus one’s design instincts, and useful in terms of making a cohesive drawing from unrelated sources, which illustrators often do.

The added dimension this time was starting in the library with the illustration collection, part of over 33,000 items in this amazing resource that sits quietly on the second floor of the Porteous building. Moira gave me the specific call numbers, and I made some tags.

Everybody drew a tag from the ceramic container (original art on display in the library) and found that category in the shelves, such as Graphic Novels or Botanical Illustration. The ulterior motive was for students to notice how many titles are at their disposal, while allowing for the surprise associations that happen when you’re immersed in rows and rows of compounded culture. I gave them each a single sheet of tracing paper.

Pretty quickly, I realized how much work the staff would do, re-shelving. Oops.

 

Students found a book, made a tracing, picked another tag, found another book from another category, seven times. Rather tricky: every choice impacts the following one. It’s a very absorbing activity.

I was intrigued by the books chosen, with no need to roam the aisles.

My hope is now illustration students recognize the wealth of material that beckons, not just in relevant areas, but all through the stacks.
The following class, we had a discussion.
Students were required to keep a list of the books they used, and title their drawing. For the most part, these were not their typical compositions. It’s a useful tool, tracing paper, to connect elements in draft, with juxtapositions that may yield surprises. It can also be used to organize their own stash of drawings into a single image.
Here is Devon’s lyrical and elegant drawing with a little Beardsley thrown in for inspiration:

Here is Andi’s, that makes use of contrast and edges:


 
Stephen’s is graphite, and the smudges and architecture give it a classic feel.

I also stuck with pencil. Still have not titled this. Any ideas?

 
About half the class was done within an hour or so. Others needed more time. Either way, it was an excellent opportunity to hang out in the company of books. Thanks, Moira!
Librarians are indeed, the gatekeepers of reference points and guardians of ideas. I’m lucky to know several, who keep me informed and never fail to point out a direction when I go searching.
Here is Priscilla, librarian at the Peaks Island Library. She fosters everything from story times, to book discussions, to film showings. Hooray!
Her colleague in arms, Rose Ann Walsh, routinely knows just where and how to find anything. Including the lobster boat I drew in Ice Harbor Mittens. Hooray!
 
Kelley McDaniel is another royal lady, the King Middle School librarian who recently won the national I Love My Librarian Award.  Hooray!
 In part of her acceptance speech at the the New York Times in December, she said,
“Libraries are a microcosm of society. Through libraries, we learn to balance the rights and needs of the individual and the community, the “me” and the “we.” “We” build libraries together. “We” support them. “We” share their resources. “We” defend the right of everyone in the community to access these resources. Every “me” is represented in the library. The voice of every “me” is protected.”
Kelley and her unflappable colleague, Tom O’ Donnell, make their school library a happening place.
As does the Teen Librarian at Portland Public Library, Justin Hoenke.
He’s got games, movie series, and more friends not his age than you can imagine.
With these librarians, I am deeply fortunate. Their devotion to books makes my world go round.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! The love is cyclical…we are all in this together!

  2. Hooray for librarians!

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