On Encouraging the Heart: Wondrous Artwork at the Library

You may have seen “Wondrous” on ALA TechSource.

Tad Beckwith wrote about it to me: He said:

Although this is not “in library” or “virtual library” tech it is “near library” tech that is inspiring visitors to check out a brand new library in Marana, Arizona.  When I was reading your About Page I felt appreciative when I read your comments about making a library welcoming in a variety of ways because I too want to bring back more commons spaces.  I think this sculpture is an example of one library investing in visually welcoming art that seems to inspire and beckon to visitors.  So I guess I’m telling you all this because I appreciated what you wrote and I wanted to share our work with your readers and was wondering if you would post something about it for them?

It is called…Wondrous

It is a galvanized metal, accordion shaped sculpture of words that is backlit by state-of-the-art, powerful colored LED lights at night which then cast cool word shadows onto the library.   We would love to help contribute to the visual beauty and welcoming appeal of more libraries and help entice new visitors to their local libraries.  

This is a great example of a library encouraging the heart, something I think we can do very well. I emailed Tad and asked him a bit about this. He graciously answered.

MS: You describe yourself as a lifelong library lover in email to me, what has created that feeling for you? What have YOUR libraries done to encourage your heart?

TB: My first warm memory was enjoying story-time as a pre-school child and now smiling at the fact that I can still go back to that library in McMinnville, Oregon and the librarian who read to us, Dee, is still at the reference desk helping folks.  My family and one other family, for some good reason I was oblivious to at the time, started a “library night” tradition.  Every other wednesday night we would go out to eat and then to the library for an hour.  I still can remember where I sat on the floor and poured over newfound books, where the nearly forbidden, tip-toe only zones were, and where the stuffed animals I could read to were waiting for me.

Lots between these two memories, but…  More recently, as an adult, I remember the overwhelm of coming to a brand-new city of Tucson, AZ and then feeling a sense of personal support from the librarians who would search as persistently as I was, for leads or clues, as I was looking for a new job.  I didn’t have an internet connection at the time, didn’t know my way around the town, and yet the library was a safe place to venture out from, a good launch pad to return to again and again, with many new projects.

The main Tucson library is located on about half of a central block with the other half being open for community events, many co-sponsored by the library.  The staff would help project family friendly halloween  movies on one outside wall of the library or support farmers’ market booths organized near the entrance to the library each wednesday.  I have observed in many “customer service moments” that the librarians at that library believe in building a stronger community and work to serve everyone who walks in the door, even if there only for the shade, some water, and a quiet place to read the day’s paper.


MS: How do you think art can encourage the hearts of library users?

One library I know is right next to a playground park for kids another has a huge, red, swirling metal sculpture in front of it.  Both situations seem to create an atmosphere of play, discovery, and a curiosity for what might be next, just inside the library.  When I see kids explore art, they do it with their whole bodies.  They may trace the silhouette of a word they recognize  or give a corner piece a “thunk” with their fist to see if it makes a funny sound.  Adults are given an excuse to pause for a moment mentally and have a momentary, exploratory detour, maybe following an unpredictable line to its end out of the corner of their eye.  When art like this is next  to a library or thematically connected to the library I see visitors get a chance to practice moments of discovery, looking at something complex and noticing something new each time.  This same skill of noticing and exploring and then noticing something new seems to be in the DNA of most library lovers I know but I really think it is in the DNA of all of us and just needs a little artful coaxing from time to time.

Thanks to Tad and Creative Machines for sharing and kudos to Pima County Public Library for encouraging the heart through artwork.

Watch for more “Encouraging the Heart” Stories here at TTW. :-)

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