January 13th, 2015
BSA Space, Boston Society of Architects

Making Space for Making Culture

In the Fall of ’14 the provost decided January’s Faculty Retreat would be on the future of the Library. Aaron Hoover and I hosted the event with the help of Jessica Townsend and Sara Hendren. Sara named it: “Making Space for Making Culture,” which was the roots of the name for this doc.

Library as Amplifier

The Olin Library needed to be a library. We needed to preserve quiet study, facilitate research and support learning. But we also believed the Library could amplify the community in new ways. We wouldn’t get a better chance than the retreat to hear what the Faculty had to say.

Speculative Stories

The most consequential thing the sixty of us did that day was paste-up a newspaper, Speculative Stories, in about in hour. In preparation we designed and printed off poster-size “broadsheet” templates, each with the banner, blocking for articles and images, and section headings. The four sections were entrepreneurship, curriculum, public engagement and opinion.

The job was to imagine and narrate the new programs, events and opportunities to define the future of The Library. Introducing the activity, we encouraged folks to think “newsworthy” — what are the library futures you’d pick up a paper to read about. This was the arc:

  1. Take 20 minutes
  2. Write a few stories
  3. Start with the headline
  4. Paste your stories in the the sections they belong
  5. Grab some ☕
  6. Read the paper

A Co-Created Narrative of Next Steps

Speculative Stories was useful in two ways. First, it surfaced what we as a library needed to amplify:

Second, as an artifactSpeculative Stories provided cover. The last step in the weeks after the event: the transcribing, producing and distributing of a real newspaper was critical. A dispatch of writing from the Faculty Retreat lended authority. Printed words are harder to refute. They’re data. Speculative Stories gave us license to act.



College Runs on Coffee

Evidenced by its frequency in Speculative Stories, one desire came through loud and clear: Coffee!

It’s not that there was no coffee at Olin, but the topic was a bit more fraught for a number of reasons. Speculative Stories gave the students and I the ability to do something about it.

So I asked them, “what should we do?”


Free Coffee!

Wednesday’s 12:30-2pm

Milas Hall Atrium

Fresh-brewed & Served by Students

Tea too

Pour-over coffee at the front door of the College, poured by novice baristas’ having fun. It’s slow, inefficient and originally we were nervous.

But then we realized this was the price of free. You don’t pay in money, you pay in time. Waiting in line together, talking. And it amplified the community-building goals.

Four seasons in, ACRONYM is an enduring Wednesday fixture, fully “owned” and operated by students.

Popping Up in Public, and Leaving

A note about the site. Part of the coup of ACRONYM was its temporary takeover of a vacant desk at the front door of the college. That was off limits to students. But there’s a skirting of politics with impermanence. ACRONYM pops up, makes a convivial cafe, and is gone in three hours.

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🥯 Bagels & Bookshelves 📚

An Important Day. One Day

At the Outset of the Library

Making Space for Making Culture

We needed the main floor of our library to open up & welcome event production from across the college, depending on day, time, season. And then reset. We needed to “make” space to make culture.

So we put everything on wheels. regular castors, and step-down castors. There’s little special about this, other than we retrofitted our existing bookshelves with wheels. We did it scrappy and it became a many hands Friday job.

The Salt Bagels w/ Honey Rosemary Cream Cheese were just a cameo for the bookshelf-making event. But they quickly became legend so we brought ‘em back about once a semester (at great expense) to play the staring role in our Community Breakfasts to kick off the Semester. But it was worth every penny.


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