ARLIS/NA Conference Stories…part deux

Each of the three main days of the conference continued to be as packed as the last, with sessions starting early and only minimal opportunities for afternoon beignets breaks. Like UK librarians, US librarians work hard.

The balance between the nuts and bolts of librarianship and more general interest sessions relating to art and design was well maintained; I appreciated being able to attend sessions on inspiring urban renewal projects and the local music scene, alongside more practical sessions around critical information literacy and counterculture based collections.

One non-library focused session which resonated was “Placemaking and Urban Renewal: Art for Change”. In this we heard about urban renewal taking place in and around the St. Claude Avenue area. I believe the room let out a collective exhale of disbelief when confronted with the statistic that 40% of all children aged 6-12 in New Orleans have seen someone shot.

It’s easy to understand the resistance such urban renewal/art projects can be met with- locals have a natural distrust of what they consider to be gentrification, but when confronted with this shocking reality it was also heartening to hear about the successful projects funded by the Arts Council which have taken place. Of particular interest was Candy Chang’s 2010 participatory art project, in which she covered vacant building across New Orleans with the same sticker: “I wish this was…”, and invited residents to share their hopes:

Of significant benefit for me was the opportunity to finally meet co-members of the Fashion, Textile and Costume Librarians Special Interest Group (FTC SIG). I’ve been hovering on the periphery of the group for a number of years; occasionally contributing content to the blog and making some initial connections with US members, so attending their AGM was a top priority. Once I got over the horror of attending at 8 am that is… We actually had some very interesting and productive discussions around a possible consortia of e-resources and plans for the 2018 ARLIS/NA conference in New York. Happily a duo from Visionaire attended so it was incredibly useful to build contacts there and fill them in on the kind of object handling sessions I usually run for Central Saint Martins students, who are needless to say huge fans of their multi-format resources.

I also managed to finally connect with Sandra Ley in person; founder of the FTC SIG. We had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch date, comparing our two strikingly different institutions, but finding plenty of similarities in what we are looking to build on professionally. Following this we both hope I can take a more active role in the FTC SIG, perhaps as an informal US/UK liaison (or as I intend to push for, ‘UK ambassador’). Having outlined my wish to work on threshold concepts and learning outcomes for fashion students Sandra is also in the process of involving me in the current discussions taking place over updating the ARLIS/NA Information Competencies for Students in Design Disciplines. This would be incredibly beneficial not only for my own knowledge and skill set but for continuing to build connections with our US colleagues.

Alexandra Duncan, London College of Fashion/ Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts, London)