Jan 13, 2011

Public library meets public art?

I've been chewing on an idea, and unlike so many of my ideas that flash in front of me, speedy and brilliant (or so I think for a bright and shiny three seconds) and then fade away into the sad and lonely rear corners of my over-taxed (or is it lazy and under-utilized?) brain, this one I can picture seeing through to the end. But before I let you in on the idea, you must take a moment and recall that I have been posting over at Information Space, where I mentioned maybe making an iWay video, then waxed rhapsodic about the Library in the Library, then threw out ideas like hijacking people's internet connections and forcing them to go to the library and then killing them with kindness. Well, in the interest of instant gratification (no waiting for approval) and the resurrection of Gonnabe Librarians (because I feel the guilt of a neglectful parent) I've decided to run my latest idea by you, dear reader, right here.

So back in March 2010 I wrote about book folding. It's this craft I was introduced to by a neighbor, and what I love about it is it's relaxing and super easy and even the most basic books look really cool, especially when there are a whole bunch put together. My 9-year-old daughter taught her 7-year-old cousin to do it, and now my sister-in-law's house is stuffed with folded books. (I wonder if she curses my name.) So anyway, I got involved with an art exhibit, Play With Your Books Open!, that traveled from the Health Sciences Library at SUNY Upstate to SU's Bird Library to the Golisano Children's Hospital art gallery. That last incarnation is still up, but not open to the general public so you can't see it. So check out this slideshow instead, and then read on for the REALLY BIG IDEA:

So here's the REALLY BIG IDEA:

You know how Nancy Pearl came up with the "If All Seattle Read the Same Book" thing? What if the entire county of Onondaga did an "Everybody Fold One Book" thing? And what if the libraries held book-folding workshops, maybe using their weeded books, and what if those libraries collected all those books and then worked with local artists to display them in some unusual way, and what if the public was invited to go by all the libraries and check out the displays and then vote on the best one, in person or on Facebook or something? And what if there could be a prize for the winning library, like a bunch of e-readers or new computers, maybe underwritten by sponsors, who could maybe have their names posted around the library and on the Facebook page for a little while in return? Or maybe the libraries could auction off the books? Sell them on Etsy and all proceeds go to the library system?

It's a county-wide public art project by the public at the public libraries! The whole thing is a win-win-win! Books get recycled, art gets made, libraries might make a little money and attract curious onlookers who might not have stepped foot in them for decades who are then reminded how AWESOME libraries are, and if the libraries played their cards right they could get all sorts of new members who might even advocate for them in these dark, dark days of budget cuts and other miserable news. And if it was successful OCPL and NOPL would have this TOTALLY ORIGINAL program and serve as a model of innovative, collaborative librarianship.

So the idea is eating at me and I'm going to propose it as a Library in the Library project. I might get shot down, but I'm okay with that. You've gotta generate a lot of bad ideas before you get to a good one, right? This might be one of those bad ideas that morphs into something kind of cool...or it could turn into a totally embarrassing moment for yours truly, but I'm okay with that. Life, as I always say, is just a series of embarrassments. But that's what makes it interesting.