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June 08, 2010



Interesting to ponder as well... If this was social science research (i.e., doing something to get a reaction), IRB would be all over it for lack of informed consent. But since it is art ... ?


In some ways too - I'm sympathetic with the students. They are doing an assignment. The faculty member who assigned it - wonder what they think the library is for? [Side note - we have experienced similar but in addition some overtly disruptive "performance art" at our library ... walking on furniture, going up and touching people who were studying, destruction of materials, etc.]


When I was a library director I'd often hear the comment "Your library is great" or something like that to which I'd reply, "It's not my library, it's our library" to remind that person the library is a commons that belongs to all community members. What's different is that we have the day to day responsibility as stewards of the space, which means we need to make sure the space is used in a way that best serves the community - and maintains a shared asset. So no, we don't allow activities or behavior that damage it even if you can make a case that it supports learning. Giving out food or cookies. No problem. But who is doing it and why.

You are correct that this is a lack of sensibility on the part of the instructor. Of course that person should give advance notice - no - ask if what they want to do is reasonable. I suspect that's what most would do. My thought. You handled it well - don't ever get into a confrontation in public. But behind the scenes your director should speak to the faculty member or that person's dept chair. And to go one further, at the next faculty meeting, just offer a reminder about the library being open to such projects but advance notice is appreciated. Remind everyone why the library is sacred space on campus - and why we want to preserve what is special about it.

Stephen Abram

This is a fantastic post.
It just goes to show that you can do research on your users and develop insights and opinions to test at every opportunity!


The thing that kind of ruined it was that one group didn't clean up after themselves... they left some trash on one of the floors, which upset some folks. I felt disappointed more than anything else.

Another thing was that this project took place from 9am- noon-- not really high volume time. Had they conducted it in the afternoon or evening then they certainly would have received a greater response... but that time was the duration of their class... so that's when it happened.

And yeah Steven, how we define commons space is a good topic. If we call it commons space and are genuine about that, then should we let them police it themselves? Where/when do we draw the line in terms of commons spaces vs. space the library watches over.

Lisa-- good point about IRB


I've been a reader for a little while and I thought this post was really interesting. I just wanted to let you know I linked back to it from my Tumblr.



You probably saw this, but in case you didn't it may be interest you.


Rebecca Tolley-Stokes

Your experience taking the photo of the artist in front of her work and then being admonished by the employee reminds me of issues of open access, author's rights, and scholarly communication. That example is fabulous. Do you mind if I use it when I talk to faculty about these issues?

Vandy does similar student-generated library projects: http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/myvu/news/2010/04/29/photography-class-defines-library-with-final-class-project.114598 and http://www.flickr.com/photos/vulibrary/sets/72157623860496100/show/ I've got to talk to our arts/music drama faculty to encourage them to use the library as a public space for their performances. we feature lots of student art work, but it'd be nice to have more.

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