Cofounder/editor, Library as Incubator Project; Assistant Director, Eager Free Public Library, Evansville, WI
MLIS, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012
Cofounder/editor, Library as Incubator Project; Assistant Librarian, Alicia Ashman Library branch, Madison Public Library, WI
MLIS, 2012; MFA, Writing, 2007; both, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Photo by Cynthia Marie Hoffman
The Artist Connection
Inspired by a discussion about creative advocacy in their first library and information studies class, “Information Agencies and Their Environments,” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010, Erinn Batykefer (r.) and Laura Damon-Moore conceived the Library as Incubator Project (LaIP). “We started talking about different user groups and how to communicate to them what a library has to offer; artists weren’t a user group covered in class, but we knew they were important,” says Batykefer, who works part-time at the Alicia Ashman Library branch of Madison Public Library. Damon-Moore serves as assistant director of the Eager Free Public Library in Evansville, WI.
The LaIP promotes various ways to strengthen partnerships between libraries and artists, writers, and performing artists and advocates for libraries as incubators of the arts. Coeditors Batykefer and Damon-Moore recognize the importance of using social media to raise the project’s profile. In addition to the project’s Twitter page, @IArtLibraries, which surpassed the 6,000 follower mark in January, the project also embraces Facebook and Pinterest.
“Both Laura and Erinn are artists themselves and have used their knowledge and connections in the art and writing world to make this project a success. They’ve reached outside the library world and brought artists in, creating and giving a voice to great advocates in our communities,” says Christina Jones, nominator, who helped cofound the site but is no longer active. They’ve built a team of (mostly) librarians—three project managers and 13 team members—who work on the site.
Since the website’s launch in October 2011, the LaIP team has interviewed 150 libraries about arts programs and approximately 250 artists, writers, and performers about their relationships to libraries. In October 2013, Batykefer and Damon-Moore launched a sister site, the Book to Art Club, which includes downloadable book club kits with title overviews and discussion questions, as well as creative ideas for hands-on activities enabling readers to explore a text and its themes.
In addition to their day jobs as public librarians and pro bono work on the LaIP, the talented duo have written The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide (Coffee House), scheduled for May 2014. It’s “a book about libraries, not for librarians but for a specific group of library patrons,” says Jones.
“One of the big things that our team really works to convey is that incubating the arts and facilitating hands-on learning is not new or uncharted territory for libraries. The ideas and examples we share on our site are not earth-shattering. We just happened to observe a gap in the writing about libraries and saw an opportunity to start a really interesting conversation: How do artists use libraries in their creative work and life and can artists and libraries support each other?” says Damon-Moore.