The SVA Library Resists!

Following the presidential election last November, the School of Visual Arts Library staff felt moved to come up with programming for our community that addressed the heated political climate in America. In March 2017 the SVA Library hosted a series of public events simply titled Resist! that showcased different mediums through which our students, faculty and staff could and were already taking action. Events in the series included two film screenings, a political art workshop, a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, a CryptoParty, a poetry reading, and a game night.

Resist! An Event Series Presented by SVA Library

An initial idea for our politically-themed programming was to hold a “mini conference” of sessions and speakers over one to two days. This format quickly gave way to a looser timeline of one to two weeks, which allowed for more scheduling flexibility on both the part of our event partners and potential attendees. Four library staff members, including our director, Caitlin Kilgallen, associate director, Rebecca Clark, digital services librarian, Phoebe Stein, and instruction/periodicals librarian, David Pemberton took part in planning the events.

The first two events in the series were held on March 15th. In the afternoon, a screening was held of the film Captured, a documentary about the people and places behind the creative energy of NYC’s Lower East Side neighborhood in the 1980s and 90s. The Tompkins Square Park riot of 1988 featured prominently in the film. The director, Clayton Patterson was on hand to introduce the film and hold a post-screening Q&A. That evening, volunteers from the Interference Archive visited the library to talk about their popular propaganda parties and discuss how independent artists and designers can collaborate with community organizations to create and distribute material that conveys a political message.  After the discussion, a workshop was held for participants to work through the process of imagining and planning their own propaganda party.

On the second night of the series, the library hosted a CryptoParty focused on personal digital security and operational security for activism and direct action. Two volunteers from CryptoParty NYC were on hand to lead discussions about general security precautions for email, web browsing and messaging, and more focused digital precautions for activist networks and journalists.

For our fourth event, the library hosted an Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, dovetailing with other A+F events taking place all over the world in the month of March. Two training sessions, led by librarian Phoebe Stein, were held for new editors to become familiar with Wikipedia’s best practices, and then participants were free to use the library’s resources to add information and citations to articles. Our edit-a-thon saw 12 editors add one new article and over 2,000 words to 20 different existing articles about women artists.

Art + Feminism Wikipedia editors at the SVA Library

Our second film screening took place on March 20th, in partnership with SVA’s MFA Social Documentary Film department. Students from the program presented their activist films from the modern era of protest, including Standing Rock, the Women’s March, the NYC Yemeni Bodega Strike, and Funeral for the Presidency. They also screened sneak peeks of their other films, followed by a reception.

On the evening of Tuesday, March 21st, four prominent New York City poets, Patricia Spears Jones, Lydia Cortes, Sheila Maldonado, and Bakar Wilson shared their work and experiences at a reading introduced and moderated by librarian David Pemberton. For posterity, this event was filmed and posted to SVA’s YouTube channel; view it here.

The last event in our series, a game night, was held on the evening of Friday, March 24th. This event was a partnership with another SVA department, MFA Design for Social Innovation. Students in that program had designed tabletop games addressing social issues for a class assignment, so holding a game night was the perfect chance for students to see their games in action. Three different games were played by small groups, followed by discussion of the game play and issues raised by the games.

Game Night at the SVA Library

Overall, the event series was very successful. Individual events were attended in varying numbers, but anecdotal reports from attendees were overwhelmingly positive. All of the events were open to the public, and at most of the events we provided food and drink, which we find are one of the keys to attracting attendees. For library staff, planning the series was a great way to reach out to external and internal partners and to forge relationships with SVA departments that can at times be very siloed. To see others photos of the events, search the hashtag #resistsva on Instagram.


Art and design school library visual identity

Art and design schools are keen to establish and promote their individual visual identities.  Do libraries at these institutions need to follow suit?  At The New School, where half of the student body is enrolled at Parsons School of Design, communications are highly visual.  In the spring of 2015, the university commissioned Pentagram to design a new typeface (“Neue”), logos, and Pantone color (“Parsons Red”), for the university.


The New School’s new logo designed by Pentagram, 2015

 The Neue typeface was met with positive reviews from Tobias Frere-Jones at Typographica and Armin at UnderConsideration. (The comments section is another matter: the words “fascinatingly ugly” were used to describe the new design.)  However, the new identity put the libraries in a bit of a conundrum.  


Bookmarks from The New School Libraries and Archives, 2013

Just a year earlier, before Neue was born, we had printed bookmarks as promotional materials to accompany our move to the new University Center (read about it in an earlier blog post by Kira Appel).  This bookmark uses the angular design of the University Center façade as its motif, and looked to its interior walls for its color scheme.  Should we continue to use these bookmarks that had become obsolete more quickly than an iPhone?  In the interest of sustainability, we decided to continue to distribute the bookmarks at computer workstations as “scrap paper” until they run out.  The bookmarks do appear to be used, as evidenced by their being tucked inside a large number of the books that are returned to the library.  


Stack signs in “Irma” and “Neue” typefaces, University Center Library, 2016

Next to change were our environmental graphics.  Our shelf labels were updated with the new typeface.  


The New School Libraries and Archives website,, 2016

Then there the task of updating our online presence.  Our library technology department redesigned the website with the help of the marketing department of The New School, which distributed Neue to the University.  A custom logo was also created for the Libraries.  The new logo is used in our PowToon videos on Youtube (although we used one of PowToon’s typefaces, Nexa, which is the most similar to Neue, in our videos).


The New School Libraries and Archives logo

Finally, we updated our email signatures with the style and format that is being used university-wide.   When it comes to printed material, librarians each take an individual approach when creating and distributing handouts that support instruction.

Does your institution promote the use of any specific logos, typefaces, or colors?  Does your library (1) adhere to the same visual identity as the school; (2) have its own, separate visual identity; (3) have multiple identities, depending on library function or division; or (4) doesn’t really have a defined approach to visual identity?

Take the ADSL Social Media Survey

Is your library using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or other social media tools to reach out to its art and design community? Are you inspired by other libraries’ use of social media? Interested in keeping up-to-date with your ADSL colleagues (while sharing what’s new in your library)?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, please take the ADSL Social Media survey! A list of ADSL members’ social media sites will eventually be compiled on the blog to show how we’re communicating and engaging with our users, provide inspiring examples, and help ADSL’ers keep up with each others’ accomplishments. Any social media sites that promote information services for student and faculty artists and designers will be considered.

Link to the survey:

Button Project with a Twist

At Ringling College’s Kimbrough Library, we’ve been a fan of the button instruction exercise outlined by Jill Ludeke.  During our 2008 Fall semester open house for first-years, we successfully used our button maker to distribute information to students about library hours, web address, and contact info.  However, we got feedback that students loved the buttons, but discarded the paper pretty quickly.  Students in a marketing class suggested we create a 3D object that carried our message to students.

For our 2009 open house, we designed and assembled the following button booklets for students that included a mix of fun facts, library services, and operations information.  The text was laid out in Adobe Illustrator by a work-study student.  Our student worker also helped to print multiples on 11″ x 17″ pages, slice, fold, hole-punch and attach the buttons.  Click here to see the text inside the booklets.

Finally, we got even more mileage out of our button maker by handing out buttons at our recent Accepted Students Day.  People are always interested to hear that the images on these buttons directly represent the materials we have in our library.  They were just as big a hit with parents as they were with students!

The Creative Library

The current issue of Urban Library Journal is about the creative endeavors of librarians. The articles in the issue discuss innovated services and programs librarians are implementing in their libraries today. My colleague (Sarah Laleman Ward) and I wrote an article titled “It All Started with a Button” for the “Reports from the Field” section about some of our practical and inexpensive creative marketing and outreach ventures. The article begins with a discussion about how we’ve utilized the “buttons” in our library, and then elaborates on other creative marketing and outreach techniques we’ve used. Take a look.