Knowledge and Community

By Jenny Ferretti, Digital Initiatives Librarian, and Heather Slania, Director, Decker Library

At MICA, the library is one of the most interdisciplinary spaces on campus. It’s a space where faculty, staff and students intersect. A space that welcomes the public. And it’s full of people who want to help MICA’s community make new knowledge.

At Decker Library, we believe that art is information. Artists need access to information to understand the context of their work. It can be difficult to make this case to students, because, often, librarians see classes only once per semester.

Sometimes, however, faculty and librarians are able to break through this barrier. Students in Book Arts Concentration classes were recently challenged by librarians Kathy Cowan and Kelly Swickard to respond to something from the library collections; this culminated in the exhibit, “Fertile Ground: Artists Respond to a Collective Geography.” Siân Evans produces popular pop-up sessions for the Graphic Design program. Chris Drolsum has in-depth studio visits with students across disciplines to discuss where to go next through research. And Jenny Ferretti has helped two classes make online exhibits, including one supporting last year’s exhibition “Laying by Time: Revisiting the Works of William A. Christenberry.”

Because it is the digital age, the library’s resources are made as available as possible. Digital Decker is home to almost all our artist books as well as historical photographs of MICA and other special collections. We have audiovisual materials dating to the 1940s documenting artist lectures, exhibitions and more at the College. Many are now available on Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library.

Our core, however, is facilitating conversations to make our community a better place. Siân also recently hosted a session for freshmen about implicit bias, showing the film The Room of Silence from RISD to illustrate how students making identity-based work can be marginalized in studio classes. Participants discussed their experience with this phenomenon at MICA and gained insight on how to combat this in studio critiques. Kelly Swickard organized a Zineposium with faculty member Chezia Thompson-Cager, inviting students and faculty from Coppin State University to discuss graffiti as an art form, LGBTQIA issues in U.S. society and the relationship between writing and art in a global society. The library also runs zine workshops supporting identity-based groups on campus.

Our librarians don’t just impact MICA or Baltimore, but the world. A strong, knowledgeable community is a powerful force, and Decker Library is here for our community.