Episode Seven: Art in the Library

Boston Public Library 7
Courtyard at the Boston Public Library in Boston, MA
So many libraries have art, either as displays or as circulating items, we really have a lot to enjoy! Thank you this week to our Guest Hosts: Becky Pflueger from St. Cloud Public Library and Jennifer Penzkover, St. Cloud  Arts Commission Coordinator. And a big thank you to library people across assorted listerves and across the country, who responded to our call for information about art in their libraries! (All photos below belong to the library (or person) submitting them to us. )

Happy National Library Week! “Libraries Transform is the theme for National Library Week 2017, reminding all Americans that today’s libraries are not just about what they have for people, but what they do for and with people. Libraries are places of creativity where people can meet to share a hobby, use a 3D printer, edit a video, or use software to record their own music. Libraries offer access to the tools, technology and training essential to the economic and cultural lives of their communities.”

You can listen to our podcast here, or subscribe at iTunes your favorite podcast app!


Topic of the Week: Art in the Library

This week we focus on visual art; but libraries have music concerts of all sorts (remember our punk and jazz performances in Episode 1), and put on performances

  • Art can be material that circulates, or displays by community members or staff
  • It can also just be art displayed around the library (remember our mention of the art in the Evanston Public library in episode 4, that auctioned for nearly $1 million!)
  • Information is our business, and it is conveyed in all kinds of formats!


Guest Hosts Report

Becky and Jen talk with us about partnerships between the library and community art projects; and about the display of staff-created art in the St. Cloud library branch of the Great River Library System! Check out these photos from the prior two years of the show. Library people do all kinds of other neat things than just work in the library!



Reports from Libraries on their Art

So many libraries shared information about their art collections and displays, and several of them shared photos also. We will keep adding to this page as new photos come in to us – so if you have other pictures of your art, email them to us.

We love to brag about all the great things libraries are doing, and all of this library art is so interesting!

  • Athens-Limestone County Public Library in Athens, Alabama

    • Catfish Literary Festival
    • Unrelated to their library art – this is the best page I’ve seen set up by a library to help show the value of IMLS funding! All libraries out there should try to set up similar pages for your site – let your community know what will be lost if IMLS is eliminated!
    • Paula Laurita   Director at Athens-Limestone County Public Library in Athens, Alabama We partner with various community organizations or individuals to exhibit art. This month will feature a partnership with one of our local school systems. In May for our Catfish Literary Festival we will exhibit photography featuring the Tennessee River (one of our county borders).
    • For our anniversary party (in new building 2 years) we had an art exhibit with original art work, including Peter Max, and limited lithographs by Chagall, Picasso, and more. Our very first art show was with the Limestone County School system with a Holocaust Remembrance display.
first art exhibit for Holocaust Remembrance Day
Athens city schools art exhibit
Athens city schools exhibit
Athens middle school art show
Pastor and Mrs. Hooker anniversary
  • Iowa Libraries

    • Sioux Center Public Library, Iowa and Spencer Public Library, Iowa (home of Dewy the Cat, from our online book group!)
    • Bonnie McKewon, Consultant  State Library of Iowa  Circulating art prints: Sioux Center PL http://siouxcenterlibrary.org and Spencer PL http://spencerlibrary.com
    • they have pictures and sculpture to check out; and are soliciting poetry for Natl Poetry Month

Gwinnett County Public Library

  • Our gardens are indoor Tower Gardens that grow a variety of salad greens.  A multitude of STEM, nutrition, and community engagement programs have been created with the Tower Gardens as the focus. We purchased fifteen of them (one for each branch) through an IMLS grant.  We are harvesting several cycles of fresh produce already and some branches are donating the fresh greens to a local senior center where lunch is served, others have located local food pantries that accept fresh foods, and others are using the fresh salad makings for programs like “Salad in a Jar.”  Our communities and schools are very engaged with the Tower Gardens and many times we will hear customers say they didn’t know libraries do this!  Our youngest of customers get to plant a seedling and watch it grow into a stand of romaine, basil, bok choy, watercress and more.


  • University Libraries  Oakland University

    • Stephen P. Weiter     Dean, University Libraries   Oakland UniversityWe have a rotating student art collection on display, as well as pieces from our Art Gallery on campus.


  • Cooper-Siegel Community Library  Pittsburgh, PA

    • Jill McConnell, Executive Director Cooper-Siegel Community Library  Pittsburgh, PA We started an Art Exhibit program about two years ago to help bring color and interest to our walls, to promote and support local artists and to make a little money for the library. The program is coordinated by a library volunteer who seeks and finds local artists to display their photography, paintings or drawings at the library for a six month period of time. The art works are for sale while they are on display and the library receives 25% of the sale price. In addition to the wall art, we also allow craftspeople to display and sell their pottery, glass work or jewelry in the library. Our volunteer coordinates this as well, and the library receives 25% of any of these sales also.
  • Colorado Mountain College libraries Edwards, CO

Katy Walker Reference/Instruction Librarian       Colorado Mountain College Edwards, CO

I run a small academic library at Colorado Mountain College, in rural Colorado.   I also have a virtual library— no books but I do have computers, outlets for student laptops, study rooms, a reference desk and lots of wall space.  I work with the art department and local artist to rotate the art on the walls so the space doesn’t feel sterile and static.

It makes a huge difference.  The students, faculty and staff appreciate it, notice when it is not there, comment on it, and enjoy it.  Community members wander in and find the library and look at the works. This little art project was the seed from which other ideas grew—some local artist organized themselves and contacted the local public libraries in my area and now they have rotating exhibits in the local public libraries.  It also grew into an annual fall art show with about 200 pieces on campus (we are in one big building). So, once a year, the most of the bottom floor of the building is turned into an art gallery.


They have a lot of art happening in their library! Jazz, paintings, fiber art, and more – check out their art news page.


Shaker Library has an Art Gallery on its second floor. It is 92 feet long and we have a hanging system that makes it easy to hang exhibits. As the PR Coordinator I am in charge of finding the artists, hanging their work and advertising their exhibits. My goal is to schedule at least six 6-week exhibits during the year. The artists agree to donate 15% of the sale of their art to our  Library Endowment Fund, providing a small income stream to the fund. I create price title cards that are placed by each piece and a brochure and postcard for each exhibit.

In addition to the individual art exhibits, we also have an annual Barbara Luton Art competition named for a former director. This also brings in a small income stream as all entrants pay of fee of $30 to enter up to two pieces. I find different jurors every year. The Gallery Opening and Awards ceremony generally finds 80 people in attendance – all happy artists and their friends.

Another exciting exhibit is the Shaker Heights High School Art Department’s exhibit Art Exposed: The Inner Workings of a High School Art Department. The Shaker Heights High School Art Department Chair and I work with the students to hang the exhibit and the Gallery Opening is held from 6:L30 -8:30 PM on a Friday Night. This collaboration allows the high school to display students’ work to the community.  It is always anticipated and always enjoyed.


  • Chatham Area Public Library District (Illinois)

    Amy Byers  Library Director  Chatham Area Public Library District (Illinois)

    We have an annual art program at our library and would be happy to discuss it with you, if you’d like.  We started it 8 years ago and invited area art groups to show.  That turned into having so many interested local groups wanting to show here, that we are now booking into 2018. We have a group show for about two months, and then the next group comes in to hang. We’ve also done individual shows. Also, each year, we have a Call to Entry Art Show, in which our art committee juries local artists’ work.  At this show, we have a reception and announce 5 winners, including the best in show.  It’s a lot of fun and I know we are appreciated in the art community.  Our population is 15,565 and we are a bedroom community, outside of Springfield, IL. I hope more libraries bring in artwork.  It’s a lot of work to coordinate, but it just makes our space pop every time we showcase new artists.  It’s well worth it.


Allison Hackenmiller at Champlin Park High School Minnesota  

We have two art shows throughout the year! The first (happening now) is for IB Art students and takes up a small chunk of our space. We will have another at the end of the year that uses a lot of the library and showcases art by anyone who has taken art and wants to display something. It really engages students and I love overhearing their discussions and comments. And the artists are so proud of their work! They will frequently drag friends in to view their little corner. We try to plan them around something that will bring in parents and more students, like our Coffeehouse, Open Mic Nights, conferences, etc. We are working on getting more permanent display boards so we could potentially have revolving art all year, which would be fun.

I love all this student art, and this excited artist is what all artists should be about their work! Such a fun display!







  • Darien Library CT

    • Darien All-Schools Art Show
    • Staff art show
    • Amanda L. Goodman           Publicity Manager    Darien Library CT  We hosted a Staff Art Show in September 2016. I don’t have the full details right now, but I believe we had twelve artists on display. I took some photos and here is  a teaser image we shared to promote the show. The art show included photographs, sculpture, textiles, charcoal, paintings, and poetry.

Image 01 credits (left to right, across, then down)

  • Abby Sesselberg
  • Larissa Golbat
  • Amanda L. Goodman
  • Claire Moore
  • Jennifer Dayton
  • Laura Cavers
  • Lois Calka
  • Maria Esther Magallanes
  • Tina Bothe


Image 02 credits

  • Thomas J. G. Kozak IV — bats
  • Maria Esther Magallanes — doll
  • Tina Bothe — woman
  • Claire Moore — Van Gogh study



  • Hardwood Creek Branch  Washington County Public Library, Minnesota

    (virtually visited on our bike desk library tour! CMLE Bike Team (@CMLEBikeTeam))

    Art in Bloom”  Local artists are invited to display their art at the Hardwood Creek Library during the month of May. Participants must be 18 or older and live in the Hardwood Creek Library service area. All formats of art are welcome: paintings, photographs, sculpture, pottery, jewelry & etc.; space permitting. The deadline for entries is Saturday, April 22, 2017.

    Art in Bloom Application on the website


Books we are Reading!

We are library people, so of course we love to read and talk about books!


Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.


Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell “A postmodern visionary and one of the leading voices in twenty-first-century fiction, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending, philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction as profound as it is playful. In this groundbreaking novel, an influential favorite among a new generation of writers, Mitchell explores with daring artistry fundamental questions of reality and identity.

Cloud Atlas begins in 1850 with Adam Ewing, an American notary voyaging from the Chatham Isles to his home in California. Along the way, Ewing is befriended by a physician, Dr. Goose, who begins to treat him for a rare species of brain parasite. . . . Abruptly, the action jumps to Belgium in 1931, where Robert Frobisher, a disinherited bisexual composer, contrives his way into the household of an infirm maestro who has a beguiling wife and a nubile daughter. . . . From there we jump to the West Coast in the 1970s and a troubled reporter named Luisa Rey, who stumbles upon a web of corporate greed and murder that threatens to claim her life. . . . And onward, with dazzling virtuosity, to an inglorious present-day England; to a Korean superstate of the near future where neocapitalism has run amok; and, finally, to a postapocalyptic Iron Age Hawaii in the last days of history.

But the story doesn’t end even there. The narrative then boomerangs back through centuries and space, returning by the same route, in reverse, to its starting point. Along the way, Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

As wild as a videogame, as mysterious as a Zen koan, Cloud Atlas is an unforgettable tour de force that, like its incomparable author, has transcended its cult classic status to become a worldwide phenomenon.”



Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs “Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all.”


H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald “ON MORE THAN 25 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR LISTS: including TIME (#1 Nonfiction Book), NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine (10 Favorite Books), Vogue (Top 10), Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle (Top 10), Miami Herald, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune (Top 10), Library Journal (Top 10), Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Slate, Shelf Awareness, Book Riot, Amazon (Top 20)

The instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald’s story of adopting and raising one of nature’s most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel’s temperament mirrors Helen’s own state of grief after her father’s death, and together raptor and human “discover the pain and beauty of being alive” (People). H Is for Hawk is a genre-defying debut from one of our most unique and transcendent voices.”


Spotlight Library of the Week:

Boston Public Library: they have some amazing visual art, and are also located at the finish of the Boston Marathon – art in motion! The next marathon will be Monday, Apr 17, 2017. Happy Patriot’s Day, everyone!

The following guides are available to those experiencing the Central Library’s art and architecture outside of a group:

    • Mural Guides (open in PDF)
    • More information on murals at the Central Library
    • Mural cycles at the Central Library (Flickr galleries)
    • General Building Resources

Fine Arts Department

Third Floor, McKim Building, Central Library
Contact via 617-536-5400

Please visit our hours page for current Fine Arts Department hours.


Art history, Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, Drawing, Design, Illustration, Decorative arts and antiques.


The Fine Arts Collection is a non-circulating research resource of more than 125,000 titles (not including bound periodicals, multiple-volume works and unbound catalogs). The Fine Arts Department is also responsible for servicing special collections that document art, architecture and the decorative arts with special focus on Boston and New England.

The circulating collection of fine arts books may be found on the second floor of the General Library in the Johnson building. Unlike many research collections of comparable size or depth in museums or academic institutions, the Fine Arts Collection is not defined by the demands of specific curricula or by the research needs of the staff of a parent organization or its special clientele.

Rather, as a research collection within a public library, the Fine Arts Department follows broad objectives in acquisitions, collecting as comprehensively as possible the materials necessary for the study of all facets of art and art history, architecture and its history, the decorative arts and crafts of all countries and periods.

The collection includes works of biography, criticism, history and philosophy of art, art education, manuals on technique, journals and patternbooks, major studies of artists and periods, catalogues raisonnes, oeuvres catalogues, collectors’ manuals and many valuable early imprints, as well as major art indexes and abstracts, encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies and auction records.

The Library receives on standing order basis new publications from 400 American publishers, including virtually all university presses, and from approximately 30 foreign countries. The Fine Arts staff does extensive bibliographic searching and ordering of additional materials from foreign national bibliographies, publishers’ trade publications, and rare book dealers. Approximately 1,700-2,000 titles are added each year.

The Department receives approximately 270 periodical titles but it should be noted that the Library subscribes to a great many art- and architecture- related journals on photography, graphic arts, archaeology, costume, crafts, industrial and interior design which do not classify on “N” in the Library of Congress classification scheme, and therefore are not held in the Fine Arts Department.

Titles in the Fine Arts Collection are listed in the Library’s Research Library catalog but that catalog in its online version only reflects cataloging since 1974. Materials acquired and processed before 1974 are listed in the microfiche version of the Boston Public Library Research Library Catalog.

Special Collections and Indexes:

Art in the Boston Public Library is a card index by artist, subject and title, to the paintings, sculptures and decorative art in the library’s collection. Information relating to medium, size, date of execution, date of presentation to the BPL, donor, location, as well as a listing of references to other sources, is often provided.

The Boston Architecture Reference File is a card index of references to written descriptions, critiques, histories, illustrations, renderings and plans of Boston buildings and their architects. Most references are to published sources, although they may refer to original photographs, architectural drawings and other unpublished materials in the collections of this and other libraries.

The Boston Picture File consists of mounted and unmounted photographs and clippings about Boston buildings, parks, monuments, streets, etc. Material in this file has been indexed in the Boston Architecture Reference File. A postcard collection of c. 1,500 items depicting Boston buildings is also part of this pictorial archive.

The Boston Art Archives/New England Art Information File was begun in 1885 as a vertical file of ephemera on Boston artists. Over the years it has expanded in coverage of New England artists, as well as contemporary artists across the country who are not adequately covered in reference sources. Types of materials included in this file are: exhibition announcements, calendars of events, gallery/organization newsletters, press releases, reviews of exhibitions, checklists and small exhibition catalogs, obituaries, illustrations, gallery histories, bibliographies on artists, and miscellaneous biographical information. This index has also absorbed the exhibition record of individual artists at shows of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, the Boston Society of Independent Artists, and the Boston Art Club.

The Archives of American Art Microfilm Collection has been on deposit at the Boston Public Library since 1994 and is updated with a copy of each new microfilm roll produced by the Archives.

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