SLA Library Crawl: STG and Cornish College of the Arts

UW-SLA members outside The Paramount

UW-SLA members outside The Paramount

SLA-UW’s first library crawl of spring quarter 2013 brought us to the Seattle Theatre Guild (STG)’s and Cornish College of the Arts’ libraries, where we got a look at two very different kinds of libraries on a beautiful spring day.

STG volunteer Bonnie shares her wisdom with the group

STG volunteer Bonnie shares her wisdom with the group

First, Bonnie, a volunteer at STG’s Paramount Theatre (who holds an MLIS from the University of Maryland) graciously showed us around the recently opened Historic Theatres Library of STG. STG is a non-profit arts organization here in Seattle that operates the Paramount, Moore, and Neptune Theatres. They present more than 400 shows annually, bringing diverse and exciting performers to the Seattle area. However, another important component of their mission is preservation, both of the historic theatres themselves, and the legacy they represent. This is where the Historic Theatres Library comes in. Housed in an old apartment in a tower connected to the theater that used to be used for artists in residence, the STG library is a small but growing collection of theater memorabilia, posters, programs, books, photographs, architectural drawings, and more with materials dating back to 1928, the year the theater opened. There are some very unique items, including original tickets to an early show and memorabilia signed by the actors and actresses themselves. They are also working on creating a complete list of what has been performed at the theaters, which is an ongoing project. The library covers materials from the history of the Paramount, Moore, and Neptune Theatres, providing a great resource for those interested in the fascinating history of theater and the performing arts in Seattle.

A souvenir program from The Paramount's opening night (March 1, 1928)

A souvenir program from The Paramount’s opening night (March 1, 1928)

The library opened to the public in 2012 and was largely built by the hard work of volunteers, including Bonnie. She shared with us what it’s like to create a library and collection essentially from scratch, giving us insight into all the variables that must be taken into consideration. Bonnie consulted with other librarians in the process of working on STG’s new library, including public librarians, as well as librarians at the Pacific Northwest Ballet Library and the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). She created a database using Excel to keep track of materials and adapted the Dewey Decimal System to organize items. None of the other volunteers are trained in library science, so Bonnie is doing her best to make the organizational system clear and logical for anyone who might inherit the collection. Currently, she is focusing on getting the word about the relatively young library out to the public, particularly to high school and university students, who make up much of the library’s patrons.

For more information on the STG’s Historic Theatres Library, including visiting hours, check out http://stgpresents.org/library.

Stacks at Cornish College of the Arts

Stacks at Cornish College of the Arts

Our next stop was the Cornish College of the Arts. Cornish is a fully accredited institution offering bachelor’s degrees in the visual, fine, and performing arts as well as music. Established in 1914, Cornish is considered to be the premier accredited arts college in the Pacific Northwest. Until 2005, Cornish’s library was located in a small space in Capitol Hill before it was moved to its present location in the Denny Triangle. This is an academic library, but its size and its specialized focus, made it a worthwhile stop on SLA’s library crawl.

Tempted by the dark side!

Tempted by the dark side!

We were shown around by Hollis Near, the Directory of Library Services, and Megan Smithling, a UW MLIS graduate, who were both more than willing to share their library with us and answer our questions. The Cornish library is a small library focusing largely on the arts and music, matching up with the needs of their students and faculty. Like many academic libraries, Cornish is increasingly focusing on teaching information literacy and research skills to its students. Megan described several creative ways she has worked to engage students, including scavenger hunts and Harry Potter themed contests. Hollis and Megan walked us through the library, showing us where audio materials, visual materials, print materials, musical scores, and other items were kept. Then they sat down and talked to us about what makes working at an institution like Cornish so different and offered us some advice on what kinds of classes library students should take to prepare for similar positions.

Vinyl collection at Cornish

Vinyl collection at Cornish

Hollis emphasized that working at a small academic library was different than working at a larger, research-oriented institution. At a place like Cornish, librarians might be in line for opportunities they wouldn’t be considered for at academic libraries, where jobs are more compartmentalized. At a smaller academic library, you might get the chance to learn about a lot of different areas of librarianship and see how they all fit together rather than committed to one area, which could be a better fit for some people. As an iSchool alum, Megan had some advice on what classes might be best to take for library school students. She suggested taking any specific subject area reference classes, cataloging, and collection development, among others. She also recommended trying to do as many internships or directed fieldworks as possible. On that note, Megan noted that Cornish has hosted many iSchool students for directed fieldworks in the past and would love to host more. If a DFW at Cornish sounds interesting to you, be sure to get in contact with Megan (msmithling@cornish.edu) or one of the other folks at Cornish!
For more information on Cornish’s library, go to http://www.cornish.edu/academics/library.

SLA members and Potato the Pug post-crawl at Montana

UW-SLA members and Potato the Pug relaxing post-crawl at Montana

We capped off our library crawl at Montana (in Capitol Hill) for happy hour. It was great to catch up with other students and to meet Potato the pug. Keep an eye out for the next SLA library crawl!

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