Five Questions Salon Edition with Library as Incubator Project

Five Questions Salon Edition with Library as Incubator Project

Erinn Batykefer & Laura Damon-Moore

Erinn Batykefer & Laura Damon-Moore, co-founders of the Library as Incubator Project

On Wednesday, April 2, the ACC Library Salon Series will welcome Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer, cofounders of the Library as Incubator Project (LAIP), to speak about their forthcoming book, The Artist's Library: A Field Guide (Coffee House Press), alongside Jessica Pigza, fellow librarian and author of BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter's Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects (Abrams). 

In advance of this exciting conversation on the potential of the library as creative catalyst and material resource, we asked the ladies from LAIP and Jessica to answer a few questions. In the first of a two-part series, here is what Laura (LDM) and Erinn (EB) had to say:

Can you give us a little background on the Library as Incubator Project (LAIP)?
LDM: The Library as Incubator Project was founded back in 2011 when Erinn, myself, and another classmate, Christina Jones, were in our first year of graduate school at UW-Madison School Library and Information Studies. The idea for the project was based on several things: a shared background in the arts, a call to action by one of our professors on the necessity for creative library advocacy, and the political climate in Wisconsin at the time, which saw funding for arts programs and public institutions like libraries getting slashed.

We started talking with one of our professors, Louise Robbins, about the idea of a project that looked at artists as a library user group - how they used libraries, what they loved about libraries, and how libraries could serve them even better. She gave us the go-ahead to pursue the idea. Over the course of the next eight months or so, we interviewed about 50 artists and artist-librarians about their relationship to libraries. The website and social media presence developed because we knew we had to share these stories with as wide an audience as possible.

What is the intention of The Artist’s Library, and how does the book expand on the LAIP online content?
LDM: We really wanted to give weight to the important stories that get shared on our website. We were excited about the opportunity to consider and talk about the LAIP artists in a new way - by grouping them together by how they use libraries, which is something we don’t really do on the website.

There are two parts of the book that are really significant expansions of the project: one is in the exercises, little tips, and ideas that we’ve put at the end of each chapter to encourage readers to explore the nooks and crannies of their “artist’s library,” and the other part is tips for arts organizations, art educators, and artists on how to work effectively with their local library to create or strengthen partnerships.

EB: I think The Artist’s Library also crystallizes our philosophy in a nice way for people who may not be familiar with how we look at libraries on the site, or even libraries in general. There’s a ton of great content online, but in this book we were able to introduce the basic tenets of librarianship - free access to information in a democratic space - and show how these ideas are the basic building blocks of creativity as well.

What are some things that surprised you when compiling the materials for The Artist’s Library?
EB: For me, revisiting some of our most exciting artist features after the site had been going for awhile reminded me of why we started the whole project to begin with. There were just so many different ways to use the library space as a breeding ground for creative expression and exchange. 

I was surprised at how inspired I got for my own creative work while pulling together this book - arranging the sections put different artist features in conversation with one another and revealed new connections I didn’t even think of when I was first interviewing these folks. Developing exercises and explorations to include with each chapter also made me want to run to the stacks to try them out myself!

What do you hope readers take away from The Artist’s Library?
EB: I want people to feel empowered creatively. We deliberately define “artist” very broadly for the purpose of The Artist’s Library and on our site because we think creativity is inherent in everyone, and we want the library space - a space that is already democratic and welcoming and at the center of the community - to be seen as a place to explore that part of your brain. Libraries have always been about lifelong learning. They’re a place where you can dabble in new ideas just by wandering the stacks.

We feel that making new things achieves the exact same goals, but that it also creates new information - not only in the product, but also in the process - and that information is stuff we can appreciate and share, and it begets even more creativity and new ideas and new information. The exercises in this book aim to make those ideas tangible for readers, to really put the theory into practice.

What’s next for you?
LDM: Continuing the work we do at the LAIP, for sure. It takes a lot of hours each week but we have an awesome team and a huge community of readers, guest bloggers, and people with wonderful ideas that need sharing. We have a lot of really neat events coming up this year, including a spring artist residency at the downtown library in Madison, and we’ll be back up in the Twin Cities this summer doing some workshops with the public and with librarians. And, as crazy as this sounds, I’d love to tackle book number two soon.

EB: Agreed. We loved this whole process, and the moment this book was done, we looked at each other and were like.: When can we do this again? I think our new project, The Book to Art Club, has also generated new avenues into exploring literature through art, and we’d love to be able to share all the ideas and examples we’ve come up with. 

Bonus Question: What is your favorite, most used art/craft/design book in your personal collection?
EB: I’m a huge fan of the Modern Quilt Studio books. Color Harmony for Quilts and Transparency Quilts are big favorites. Right now I am super into Tula Pink’s City Sampler book. His designs are ingenious.

LDM: The one I keep coming back to is What It Is by Lynda Barry. Whenever I am feeling stuck or just blech creatively, her pages packed with writing, drawings, collages, and project prompts gets me right back into it.

Don't miss our salon - The Library As Material - co-presented by Coffee House Press on Wednesday, April 2, at 7:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

Five Questions is a brief Q&A about books and craft, with people who love and use the American Craft Council Library.

Presented by the American Craft Council, the Library Salon Series is a series of free public presentations exploring craft, making, and art. Check out past salon series events.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.