I've been thinking a bit about the fuss over the 100 block of State Street. I will return to it in its own post, but my thoughts are connected to the Bookless event at the downtown library this weekend so I can't help making the connection here as well.
Bookless seemed to perfectly encapsulate what I consider the best of downtown Madison - the diversity of people - all ages, all economic backgrounds - the mix of art and academics - in fact, these are qualities that I consider key to libraries themselves. They have a very (lowercase d) democratic quality about them.
My concerns about downtown Madison development in general have to do with gentrification, unification, privitazation and aesthetics. On the other hand, the generous spirit of a plan that would help fund the now-nonprofit Overture Foundation cannot be ignored. But I really need to do more research about the 100 block instead of jumping to conclusions so I'll get back to the topic at hand.
Saturday at the library was AWESOME. If I somehow I didn't convey that enough via Facebook or otherwise propel you to get to the library, I apologize. Because you missed some great fun.
The downtown Madison library is slated for de/construction, with the new library opening up in the summer of 2013. The books have been moved out, the temporary location is up and running, and for all intents and purposes, we were to have said our goodbyes to the library when it closed in November.
UNTIL, some ingenious librarian (the famous Trent Miller, whose company Babysitter Deandra and Girl Lily always enjoyed on visits to the library) came up with the wonderful Bookless plan. There are pictures here on Flickr from the party, which went on until the wee hours of the morning.
Sachi and I each managed to grab a little time away from the shop in the morning, running over to the library during the 10 am - 2 pm free family-friendly activities.
I had to go back again, just before the 2 pm closing time because a customer showed me a great James Marshall stamp that she'd used on a catalog card. In related news, we got a big box of library catalog cards from Memorial library, which is clearing them out... and I have some idea of an art/journal project. I'm not sure what it will be. But I love all the worlds that spin off of just the many titles of books on the cards.
I have to admit that I'm a little jealous/sad that I didn't get involved - it looks like it would have been so much fun to get to trick out a room in the library, make an art installation with library catalog cards. Though, looking back on the last two weeks of year end tax prep work, I'm not sure when I would have had time.
I really admire the nimbleness of the artists, many of whom seem to have changed their installation based on the materials at hand.
So a huge kudos to the artists, but also to the library. Because it is rare that artists in Madison get quite such a large canvas to work on. How wonderful would it be if more building and property owners were open to something like this! Aside from the spaces that are currently vacant, what a wonderful way this would be to say goodbye to a building.
Not to mention the fact that I have grown up with this library, tromped up the stairs as a child, thrown a penny in the fountain, checked the answer to the riddle in the clown's pocket. After thirtysomething years of living in Madison, I'm starting to see how an old brain could be totally confused - all those layers of memories: what is a UW Credit Union doing there? Wasn't there a Kohl's (grocery store!) with a big yellow arch that we used to try to slide down? Didn't there used to be fountains in this mall? And where did that Gimbel's go to?
The event also reminded me of a few years ago when my parents were moving from my childhood home. I was wrestling with some emotions of loss but a friend suggested that I make a journal of the house. I ended up spending a lot of time taking pictures of the space after the bulk of the moving was done. It was a new way to look at space that was usually filled, but spending time taking pictures was a helpful way to say goodbye.
And, of course, seeing some of those traces of the old library experience were a little trip back in time. I ran into an old childhood friend and we reminisced about trying to find those wheely stools so that we could reach books too high above us, how you could never find one when you needed it. I overheard a parent telling his son, "those are the cards we used to keep track of books, before there were computers." So strange to imagine the different world that exists.
I do have to admit that I'm glad to see I'm not the only person with a surplus of rubber bands. What's the deal with that?
I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the Oracle, but that's just evidence of the way that every corner of the library had something going on. I didn't have nearly enough time to explore it all and I'm sure that I missed a lot, but I was worried that the accountant was going to show up for the aforementioned tax work. I could have spent the entire four hours taking pictures of the space, the art, and the people amidst it all.
Plus, it was cool to see the labyrinthine backways in the basement and upper floors, those mysterious places usually for staff only.
To sum up, Bookless felt like the epitome of an urban artful experience.
The level of participation from artists was fabulous; the repurposing of an unused space and supplies (catalog cards, stamps, shelving, labels) and the fusion of looking back and going forward was inspiring; apparently a lot of money was raised for the library foundation; and the turn-out of the community was seriously off the hook, and I don't use that phrase lightly. And I didn't even muster up the energy to go to the party at night, but I can see from the pictures that it was quite the party.
Art/craft, learning/doing, seeing/making, repurposing/recycling, old/new, community participating/celebrating/remembering. All that I can really hope for is more of the same for downtown Madison.