About Design, Build, Experience
The Initial Idea
The “Design, Build, Experience: Visual Strategies for Infusing Next Generation Library Spaces with Next Generation Resources” project began in July 2016 as a response to a call for proposals from the Charleston Conference Fast Pitch Competition for innovative, outside-the-box ideas for academic libraries.
As part of this original proposal, the Claremont Colleges Library proposed to facilitate the design and construction of an art installation by students that rendered otherwise “invisible” electronic resources as tangible objects. Recalling the visual strategies employed by visual strategists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in nearby Pasadena, the goal of the art installation was to help library users make the connection between the physical library building and the digital collections it supports. The project would offer students opportunities to engage deeply with electronic resources and newly designed library spaces, all while utilizing a design-thinking approach to communicating library services to the public.
The Charleston Conference Fast Pitch proposal was made an honorable mention, but did not receive funding. The experience, however, propelled librarians at the Claremont Colleges Library to submit for further grant opportunities and ultimately received just over $5,000 in funding from the 5C Collaborations Project Grant, the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (the Hive), plus an additional $3,000 for construction materials from the Claremont Colleges Library.
Librarians Madelynn Dickerson and Alex Chappell worked with Pitzer College art professor Sarah Gilbert to develop the project and align it to her Spring 2017 sculpture course “Materiality, Labor, and Craft.” The DBE art installation project became the final project for students enrolled in this class as part of a unit called “Making the Digital Real.” Dickerson and Chappell designed a series of process assignments to support student understanding of library spaces, electronic resources, and information literacy concepts such as issues of information privilege in order to build a foundation of knowledge upon which students could begin to design their art projects.
To support group brainstorming and project planning, the sculpture students attended a design thinking workshop facilitated by Timothy O. Moore at the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity. Students were joined at this workshop by faculty consultants in engineering and computer science, Professors Albert Dato and Ben Wiedermann of Harvey Mudd College to provide feedback and guidance on initial design ideas. After the session, students came away with concrete design ideas and prototypes that influence the final designs of the artwork.
In May 2017, the students completed construction and installation of two unique works of art: “The Instrument of Perpetual Discovery” and “QRcade.” These works critically and creatively address problems of e-resource awareness and the disconnection between e-resources and physical library spaces by allowing the public to interact with digital media in physical ways and by successfully manifesting e-resources into one of the Library’s most public and popular spaces.
The “Instrument of Perpetual Discovery” requires a person to hand crank a pulley that causes a string to turn a page of vellum upon which a library e-resource image is projected from below. The simple mechanics of turning a paper page are elaborated upon and have been applied to the otherwise simple act of digitally “clicking on a page.”
In “QRcade”, students tackled the concept of serendipity and browsing by creating a work that requires the public to search and retrieve physical objects that have been hidden in the building, each representing specific e-resources accessible through a QR code. To complete this project, students needed to be aware of (and overcome) significant challenges of information access and privilege due to barriers from firewalls and link proxies. They accomplished this by researching and selecting open access resources and by working with librarians to allow universal access to licensed library materials. These works of art both successfully drew upon concepts the students learned through a series of library class visits, assignments, and design-thinking exercises.
The DBE Project Archive
The DBE project is documented here on Scholarship@Claremont (the institutional repository of the Claremont Colleges) from start to finish and covers the initial grant proposals, process assignments, and final art installation pieces.
Madelynn Dickerson (Claremont Colleges Library), Alex Chappell (Claremont Colleges Library), and Sarah Gilbert (Pitzer College) coordinated the grants and managed the project. The 10 students enrolled in Pitzer ART 176: Materiality, Craft and Labor are the creators of the artwork and the authors of responses to the process assignments. Their work, and text and images related to the creation of their work, is published here with express permission.
5C Collaborations Project Grant Alexandra Chappell and Madelynn Dickerson (Claremont Colleges Library); and Sarah Gilbert (Pitzer College) email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Sontag Course Grant Alexandra Chappell and Madelynn Dickerson (Claremont Colleges Library); and Sarah Gilbert (Pitzer College) firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org