Artist in Residence 2015 – Steve Kemple

EveryLibrary understands that voters are motivated to vote because of their perception of both the library as an institution and of the librarians as compassionate, engaged professionals in their communities. We believe that there are some very effective and resonate slogans, images, and campaigns about libraries at loose in the world. But we don’t see people talking about their librarians, or the brand of librarian, as much as we need them to. We think that is because we don’t know how to talk about ourselves well.

In 2015, we wanted to address that. EveryLibrary launched what appears to be a unique project for a political action committee: an Artist-In-Residence program. We were pleased to have chosen Cincinnati, Ohio–based artist/librarian Steve Kemple as our first AIR “Artist-In-Residence.” Over the course of six months, Steve curated a series of eight virtual art installations and performances at libraries everywhere. His project, called “We’re In This Together,” consisted of a series of synchronous and asynchronous events that could be performed by library staff at libraries nationwide. The project’s aim was to “transform libraries from the inside out with magical thinking” and to “ignite a sense of wonder among library workers everywhere, encouraging libraries to approach with new eyes their vital role in the public sphere and the wider ecosystem of cultural institutions.”

Notable highlights from the series include recording and issuing our first full-length album of librarians shushing, delivering the World’s Smallest Sculpture for display at every library in the world, and sending flowers to civic and cultural institutions across town. The most notable event was Performance No. 7, #High5aLibrarianDay. Through a bit of pluck and bravado, Mr. Kemple was able to make the project go viral and over 11 million Twitter impressions later, a wonderful moment of professional recognition was born. Annually, we plan on celebrating November 18 as #High5aLibrarianDay. Thousands of people participated in the performances.

Performance 1 on June 10: Shhhhhhh….. invited library people from around the world to call in and record their own shushing sound, which was then edited and compiled into an album download. It has been cataloged.

Performance 2 on June 23 and August 6: Thinking of You encouraged library folks to send flowers, with or without a nice card, to other public institutions in their area. This performance ran for the length of the project.

Performance 3 on August 4: International Space Station Fly Over High Five requested that whenever the International Space Station flew over your library that you and at least one colleague would high five.

Performance 4 on August 17: The World’s Smallest Sculpture was delivered to every library in the world. Those who chose to display it were asked to report back on this special one-day showing to their public.

Performance 5 on November 3: We’re in This (Submarine) Together allowed everyone to play a recording of submarine sounds at their reference desk. It was also Election Day.

Performance 6 on November 16: Catalog the Sunset asked librarians to use a standard markup language jointly developed for the project to retain a local record of their local sunset.

Performance 7 on November 18: #High5aLibrarianDay, in which it’s a great idea to high five a librarian, or provide some other recognition of how awesome they all are.

Performance 8 on November 30: One Perfect Moment encouraged reflection at 2:34 p.m. CST on how we are all truly “In This Together.”

All the “We’re In This Together” performances were hosted through the EveryLibrary Facebook page and promoted through our social media and website channels. A retrospective of this series will be published in early 2016. We anticipate hosting a new Artist-In-Residence in the second half of the year.