WEEK 13: Issues based reflection

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      Kate McKelliget

      This week, I was unable to start the required readings before the class’ Twitter chat. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because during the Twitter chat, I was inspired by my class mates’  comments to write this reflection. If I’d have done the readings beforehand, I’m not even sure that I would have considered this topic. Let me show you how this came to be. During the Twitter chat, the topic of selling private art in public libraries came up. Well, I was mortified by this! I was shocked that some of my class mates seemed to agree that it was acceptable to sell pirate art in a public library. My feelings, at that time, can be quite accurately reflected in the words of Erickson. Although discussing the matter of privatising public libraries, Erickson writes:

      ‘… [it] has a certain dystopian ring to it, the ultimate public space corrupted by profit.’

      When I thought of my public library, I was flooded by memories of storytime, bean bags in the teen section and my garden view desk where I now study for university. It truly is a ‘third place’ as, Lawson states. That is, a place outside of my home and university where I can belong. Not a place for private sales to be supported (or so I thought)!

      Being promoted to choose out own chapter from Bringing the Arts into the Library, I naturally chose to read the chapter written by Luer Eyman, ‘Displaying and Promoting Visual Art at the Nashua Public Library’. What I’d hoped to find was an argumentative chapter about these ethical issues I was having but I didn’t. And I was presently surprised. Luer Eyman discussed in detail the ways that her public library supports the local artists of its community. Namely, Luer Eyman writes, one local artist is permitted to display, for no charge, their collection in the library for two months. It was Luer Eyman‘s comments about the sale of these art works that first turned my thinking around. Luer Eyman writes that the library allows ‘the artists to sell their exhibited work but the transaction is handled privately between artist and buyer’. Further, Luer Eyman states:

      I know some librarians are of the opinion that the library should take a cut of sales … however, expecting a commission overlooks the benefit of the who to the library and its customers. One our our goals in holding these exhibits is to promote the arts, and how can we nurture the arts without nurturing artists?

      Within this chapter is a section with the subtitle ‘Everybody wins’. Luer Eyman makes the following points:

      1. The exhibits are popular with the library customers
      2. The library is able to offer those not usually exposed to fine art this experience ‘in a familiar setting, with free administration, where no one presses them to purchase anything’
      3. The library receives the possibility to run programs
      4. the library space is made beautiful for no cost
      5. the artist gains experience, publicity and sales

      It is the third point that interests me most. When reading Roberston’s chapter ‘Making the Case for Cultural Programming’ I was struck by the six functions of the library in fulfilling its cultural role that Monroe created in 1981.  Number one was simply

      ‘To serve the arts information need of the community (including the needs of artists and scholars.’

      As Roberston’s points out, libraries exist for a public good. Presenting artwork (even if that artwork is allowed to be sold) both does the artist themselves and the general public a good by supporting and stimulating their cultural lives.


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