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The Library as Incubator Project

December 19, 2011

Recently, I had the privilage to run across Library as Incubator Project’s website. I wanted to know more and I really liked what I saw, so below is an interview with the ladies of this project that I personally think is important to our society and to future generations. You’ll find out how this helps kids, how break dancing brought a new crowd to the library, and how others use a library for inspiration! Enjoy!

The Pine Cone Gentleman: What is The Library as Incubator Project?

The Library as Incubator Project: It is an interactive website that highlights the ways in which libraries and artists can work together.  On the site, we feature:

  1. Visual artists, performing artists, and writers who use libraries in their communities for inspiration, information, and as gallery space
  2. Collections, libraries, and library staff that incubate the arts, and the ways that artists can use them effectively
  3. Free-to-share resources for librarians looking to incubate the arts at their libraries
  4. Ideas for artists looking to connect with their communities through library programming

At a time in which both libraries and arts organizations are suffering slashed budgets and  have to do more with less, it makes sense for them support each other. We want The Library as Incubator Project to not only showcase one of the many reasons libraries are important to our communities and our culture, but also provide a dynamic online forum for sharing ideas.

TPCG:  Who is involved (founders etc)?

LAIP: The Co-founders / masterminds of the Library as Incubator Project are Christina Endres, Laura Damon-Moore, and Erinn Batykefer.

We are in charge of all daily website operations– everything from researching new arts organizations and library programs, to interviewing folks and generating content for the site, to managing a whole suite of social media marketing and researching and writing grants that will keep us going.  It’s a huge job, but really worthwhile!

TPCG:  What was your inspiration to start this? 

LAIP (LAURA): The project idea was really a union of several ideas that had been circulating for a while. One was prompted by an article in the UW-Madison Friends of the Library magazine. The article was by Madison artist and curator Martha Glowacki, who wrote about how she uses libraries extensively in the research for her work. Several of her pieces hang on the second floor of Memorial Library, and I got to thinking about libraries as inspiration for and places to exhibit works of art.

A lecture by one of our professors, Dr. Louise Robbins, on the importance of creative advocacy for libraries got all of us excited about innovative ways to show the community what the library does and can do. All three of us have a strong interest in the arts, community engagement and education, and libraries, so it seemed natural to put these things together.  We knew that a lot of libraries and artists were working together and benefiting from each other’s existence already, and so we wanted to collect this stories in one place in order to help highlight those partnerships and make them stronger.

TPCG:  Here in Philadelphia, there was a threat that most of the smaller libraries will be closing. I believe that the Library Incubator Project starts at the ground floor – do you have any advice to librarians facing a similar situation?

LAIP (ERINN) Threats to  library service, in the form of complete shut down, gutted budget, or slashed hours, are a horrible trend all over the country and even the world.  But the lawmakers who make those decisions and the voters who support those skinny budgets often don’t understand what they are really cutting.  Cutting library funding is a myopic and ultimately damaging way solve a budget problem, because libraries provide tangible returns on investments.  

In Wisconsin, libraries return as much as $4.06 worth of materials and services for every tax dollar that’s invested .  There is strong evidence that shows that libraries raise property values, and that well-stocked and professionally staffed libraries in communities and schools have a greater impact on literacy and learning than class size.  Those are huge benefits to the community that are worth tax dollars.

Communicating that to the community is crucial.  Advocating for libraries is a professional must for every librarian, but it’s also necessary for every single library patron who enjoys the space, the cool programs and lectures, and the free-to-share stuff that libraries provide, like books, dvds, e-books, magazines and so much more.

If you’re a librarian or a library supporter,  you need to talk to your patrons and friends about how important advocacy is.  You need to know the politics of your community and explain the benefits of library service and the necessity of funding in a way people can understand.  And you need to go to town hall meetings, budget hearings, and legislative days and talk to the people who hold the purse strings about the crucial place the library holds in the community.  They won’t know unless you tell them!

TPCG:  In your opinion, what is the best way to get kids involved in libraries? How about the whole family?

LAIP (CHRISTINA): There are so many great ways to get kids involved at libraries, and many libraries are doing creative and fun programming that really draws kids in.  We think arts programming can be a great way to do this, because kids really do like to create and sometimes aren’t able to do so at home or at school.  As many arts programs in schools are being cut, the library can provide a new space for kids to engage their creativity and learn about art.  Even for kids that own every art supply imaginable at home, making art in the library can give them new ideas, social interaction with their peers, and allow them to share their work with others.  By displaying art made by kids at the library on the library walls, librarians can help kids take ownership of their space, and feel like what they do really matters at the library.

By creating programs where parents or caregivers and their children can work together on an art project, or sing together with a musician, libraries get the whole family involved in fostering an appreciation for art in kids.  Parents often love these activities too because they’re fun — who doesn’t miss the days when all you needed to make a masterpiece was construction paper, Popsicle sticks and toilet paper rolls?

If families know that they can go to the library with their kids and see an art show, hear a musical performance, participate in a program, and check out books, there are suddenly many more reasons to make that trip.

TPCG:  You run events at libraries to gain attention of those who might not go otherwise, what is your most successful event so far?

LAIP (LAURA): One of the most successful programs we have seen so far is definitely the breakdancing competition that Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, Wisconsin hosted in November 2011. Over 500 people, of all ages, showed up to see over 20 crews from all over the upper Midwest “battle” in a public library!

I was able to talk with a lot of young people who said this was their first time in a library–and they couldn’t wait to come back! Hosting events like this often helps break down some of the negative stereotypes that people may have of libraries. Something that we’re seeing over and over again is programs and events that turn the library into a place that not only contains knowledge, but creates it. Art, in all its forms, is absolutely a form of knowledge. When people start to figure that out, the library suddenly takes on a new role or meaning.

TPCG: Anything else you like to add or any events you’d like to promote?

LAIP: We’re highlighting new events and ideas every single week, so please connect with us on our Facebook page (Library as Incubator Project), via Twitter (IArtLibraries), and check the website for new updates each weekday (

One Comment leave one →
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