In the Scene: highlighting creativity on campus

January 22, 2010, 11:38 am

How about a fun post for a rainy Friday…

At most universities the athletes get a lot of attention. So do the people who win scholarly awards and whatnot… but what about the creative types? I’m not talking about the guy who ends up on American Idol or the grad student who publishes a book. I’m talking about the person studying in your library right now. The girl who plays her guitar at the local coffee shop and has some tracks on iTunes. Or the guy who writes existential poetry and is directing a black and white film on the weekends. These are the people who fascinate me. These are the people who add character to the college experience… and these are the people that I want to help.

One of my guiding principles is that academic libraries should highlight the scholarly, cultural, creative, and service contributions of the community. Not only highlight, but strive to make them tangible and engaging.

To get this rolling I am happy to present The Monthly Scene.

Scene here is ambiguous… it could be the music scene, the art scene, the movie scene, the fashion scene, the design scene, etc. It is whatever context it needs to be. It also plays on the promotional value of “get your stuff seen by others.”

So, ripping off starbucks we now offer little cards to patrons highlighting a different artist each month.


They are given out at the circ desk and at our coffee cart. The information is also on our website and there are a few posters around the building. The initial idea I had was rewarding people for checking out a book by giving them a free song to listen to, while simultaneously spreading the word about campus musicians. Something like that?

I wanted to kick it off with a band because music lends itself easily to this type of program. The first group, Soul Minded, was really cool. They have the quintessential “Santa Barbara Sound.” They hammed it up for a photo shoot. They gave us a song to give away. The lead songwriter gave me an interview. And they are doing a free acoustic set outside the library, which we’ll probably put up on YouTube.

The site is still coming together, but you can check it out here: UCSB Library’s Monthly Scene. It is definitely a work-in-progress and it will probably take us a few months to really get it together. But I wanted to get the concept up and out there in order to drum up business and to gauge interest. I’ve already heard from another band, a photographer, and two film students who want to be featured—so yeah, it seems to be working. Time to draft some policies! But my feeling is even if we can’t work everyone into scene maybe we can feature their music on our tutorials or on our web site or a display. At the very least it gets us in touch with the creative talent around campus enabling us to find a way to get them to volunteer their skills.

The big picture objective through centers around that relationship we forge with our patrons. It also gives the Library some character.

Eventually I’d like for this to be student run with maybe a librarian and library staff member providing them with guidance, but right now it is in start-up mode. It’s fun stuff though. This is part of the “library as platform” thinking that I like to talk about…  a way for us to push art and culture in a relatable context to our patrons. It's not about instruction or our collections, but about building brand recognition. I’m not asking students to make a video about the library or to write a story about how they love books or any contrived act like that—I simply want to celebrate creative talent.. and I want to link the library to that theme.

We’ll see how it goes.

A special thanks to Yen Tran for all her help and to Garrett Brown for getting me into Soul Minded.

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