a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.
I am a library amplifier. I draw on my design training to empower the creativity of administrators and patrons across ages so they may shape, and reshape, the libraries that serve them. This hands-on community process brings libraries to ⚡️life⚡️.
What follows is a selection of library innovation work while Library Director at Olin College, a founding member of Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab, an Artist in Residence at and a graduate student at the MIT Media Laboratory. As lives trend online, the mission and location of libraries (at the center of town and the center of campus), remains “evergreen” terrain for growth and experimentation.
The Olin College Library went from a ghost town to the center of town in about a year and a half. By inviting students to shape the culture of the place, we invigorated student engagement with the collection, the space, and each other.
We needed flexibility for the culture to emerge, two strategies stand out:
Colorful paint, removable vinyl sticker supergraphics, laminate to resurface tables, homosote bulletin boards - these skin deep changes transformed the space. Simple guide rails allowed us to act with relative autonomy:
It was helpful to think of the library as a theater: the space as a stage, the programming as a long, slow performance. An evolving collection of low-fidelity yet suggestive sets supporting the “performance” of library programming were transformed the atmosphere. The details of the sets mattered, the available bowl of yarn and needles, a collection of operable and interactive antiques.
Student engagement was the backbone of the library’s transformation.
In partnership with Engineering Professor Aaron Hoover we created OWL (Olin Workshop on the Library) Summer Design/Build program. For eight weeks we set seven students free to create the library (space) the community wanted.
Recognizing that building a new collection is an act of research and a set of decisions about what to buy is something anybody can understand. Same with the joy of spending somebody else’s money. This is how we began our media tools collection.
Students were invited to shape the technologies of the library as much as its spaces. In collaboration with Visiting Professor of Computer Scientist Oliver Steele, we created and co-ran the Hacking the Library🔧 for two semesters.
Producing faculty retreats became a library tradition (thanks to the castors on the stacks), same with Holiday Happenings and the Community-wide Cookie Swaps.
I was brought on to help found the new Library Innovation Lab at the Harvard Law School Library. We were able to do a lot.
With the support of Prof. Jeffrey Schnapp, I created, and co-ran the Library Test Kitchen for three semesters in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. From the Inflatable Reading Room to the The Wi-Fi Cold Spot, student work was brilliant.
A 21-day pop-up library experiment in ground floor retail in Harvard Square. Designed, built and operated by 16 folks in the Library Test Kitchen Seminar, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
A fully operational library catalog (or OPAC). Visualization of book size and anonymized lending history to reveal the “life” of the collection.
This was policy design to address the ocean of books languishing in copyright. Once a book no longer has buyers, Library License aimed to make one free online copy available to every library that wants one. The License was a legally binding rider for book contracts drafted by lawyers from Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. It went surprisingly far, only to be deemed too
“incremental” by the leadership of Creative Commons.
StackView was the project I did as an Artist-in-Residence at ED Lab, Teachers College Library, Columbia. This lead to my position at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.
The pitch video:
While at the MIT Media Lab I designed this audio discovery tool to increase the serendipity of bumping into music. (I got help coding it by Bob Burkhardt!). I think it could work quite well for podcasts…