Art library problems, tech solutions

We are delighted to introduce another guest post, this time from one of the MmIT committee. Rowan Williamson is Learning Resources Manager at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

I have worked in Art libraries for many years and I always think nothing else our students do will surprise me…and then it does.

That’s what makes it so interesting. ‘Studio’ and workshop activities often creep into the library, and whilst they are often fascinating and are being done hand in hand with more traditional research, they can present a whole range of challenges in terms of health and safety, mess and damage to furniture and environment. Some are a straightforward headache to keep up with the cleaning but it struck me recently that as art librarians we have to be just as creative as our creative students in dealing with the after effects of these activities.

Some Universities are introducing full blown ‘maker spaces’ but that’s not always an option, so if you are stuck with a library moonlighting as an art studio think about the following tips:

  1. Dress makers dolls in the library, bit of stitching and sewing? Unusual but Mannequin, desks and shares in a pop-up maker space in a librarywhere’s the harm? It’s in the dropped tin of pins that are strewn across half the floor. Top tip for an efficient clear up? Get your magnetic DVD unlockers and wave them over to suck them all up!
  2. Hot glue spilt on your tables? You need an iron. Every library should have one! Just add a tea towel and you have a dried glue removal kit.
  3. Spray booths. Spray painting in the library is not what you want because of the toxicity, and it’s fairly likely the smell will alert staff to what’s going on so you can prevent it. However some sprays are only problematic because of the mess, and you may only find out they are being used when you find spray mount all over your tables (yes, glue again!) So a cheap solution you might want to consider, is buying a spray booth. They don’t take up much space (a table top) and can be placed somewhere visible for monitoring, and they might just discourage those secret sprayers from hiding in the back destroying your carpets!
  4. Light tables – Light boxes and tables are very popular with students. Some use it for drawing and tracing as you would expect but I have seen a whole load of activities on there, building models, stringing beads, painting and even using scalpels. Use acetates and clear plastic coatings to prevent the worst. Failing that, take the bulbs out and ‘issue; them to their library account for accountability! (Note; not always that easy depending on the make, your staff time and expertise!
  5. Flip top tables. A simple, flexible space saving solution you would think. But potentially a major health hazard in an art library where I found our fashion students parading up and down on them doing ‘catwalk’ practice! Avoid trouble, don’t buy them. If you need flexible space go for the study chairs with flip side tables, or keep unattached table tops to lay on the floor for them to spread out work!
  6. Are your massive Art books damaging the photocopiers? Are they suffering broken spines from being crammed down on to the glass multiple times daily? Try investing in a professional book scanner that scans from above. Zetech offer a range. They are not cheap but you might save the difference in binding costs!
  7. It may seem obvious but a really powerful little hand held hoover is a must Scraps of paper scattered around a photocopier with the paper drawers openif you have regular wood shavings on your floor. No wood shavings? Bet you have bits of cut up paper. Look out for powerful suction, wall mounted and rechargeable with different nozzles for those art materials you never even heard of before that are littering your floors and getting inside the printers!
  8. Shelfmark challenges. Got someone good with tech/programming/apps? How about you try an Augmented Reality App to create a virtual map of your library shelf locations. Art students browse, and many struggle with classification systems. Dyslexia rates are higher in art school populations, and many students are visual learners. Ditch the classmarks and create an app that pops up images of the subject areas as you point them at the shelves. For a lower tech solution you can use QR codes.
  9. Buy a good camera and get on Instagram. It’s the perennial problem for librarians, which social media platform are the students on, and will they still be there by the time we catch up? Well maybe will always be behind the curve but we prioritise Instagram and a well-chosen image over the pithy 140 characters!
  10. Have a good supply of noise cancelling headphones. And earplugs! Artists are digital too.

Got any more tips? Share them in the comments below!

Rowan Williamson


Call for Nominations for the Jodi Awards 2010

Call for Nominations for the Jodi Awards 2010

The Jodi Awards are for museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage venues which use technology to widen access to information, collections, learning and creativity for disabled people. They are organised by The Jodi Mattes Trust :

“We welcome nominations from all kinds of projects, small and big, local and international, low-tech and hi-tech and for small and large audiences. What counts is the value of the nominated project.” Examples of Jodi Awards winners can be found on 

Additional information:  Yvonne Hellin Hobbs, Communications Coordinator, Jodi Awards 2010, Email

Multimedia Information and Techology: journal news 4 May 2010

MMIT news – 4 May 2010

1. Cloud computing and social networking leave UK businesses exposed to cyber attacks, new survey shows
2. Silver Surfers Day: 21st May
3. New classroom innovation site from The Guardian
4. Google Apps Helps a Library: What to Do without Budget
5. Shared services in HE
6. Visit the National Art Library at the V&A – 24th May


  1. Cloud computing and social networking leave UK businesses exposed to cyber attacks, new survey shows
  2. Silver Surfers Day: 21st May
  3. New classroom innovation site from The Guardian
  4. Google Apps Helps a Library: What to Do without Budget
  5. Shared services in HE
  6. Visit the National Art Library at the V&A – 24th May


  1. Cloud computing and social networking leave UK businesses exposed to cyber attacks, new survey shows


For full news release about the 2010 Information Security Breaches Survey (ISBS) commissioned by Infosecurity Europe and written by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, see:

2. Silver Surfers Day: 21st May

More than one thousand local event organisers are being encouraged to add details to a searchable database at  All registered event holders will be invited to enter a competition with a prize of GBP1,000 for the ‘best’ Silver Surfers’ Day event.

All event holders will have access to a new web-based interactive resource for participants to learn basic skills, try email, listen to music, upload scanned photos to a time-lined database, place an online order, play a quiz about health and wellbeing, and how to find useful information about everything from adult learning to zoos.  This new resource is being created to complement our existing free ‘Learning Zone’ materials that are widely used by many Silver Surfers’ Day event holders.

Event holders should visit to register.  Or phone 0800 077 6144 to speak to Rick Crust, Silver Surfers’ Day Events Manager (

3. New classroom innovation site from The Guardian launches today (4th May) and illustrates an array of cutting-edge and current technologies suited to enhancing all learning styles and skill-sets – available from one accessible and easy-to-navigate portal.

This exciting new initiative will deliver valuable information to teachers and educational professionals via a platform where they can share ideas, learn, inform, discuss and enjoy active dialogue on the hot-topics of the day. 

Through promoting dialogue and communication on important educational issues, the site hopes to access the knowledge of teaching professionals on the ground and provide an open and free forum for their experiences and opinions to be voiced.

4. Google Apps Helps a Library: What to Do without Budget


Interesting article on Informed Librarian on using Google Apps and cloud computing


5. Shared services in HE

The HEFCE funded SCONUL report on ‘Shared Services’ is available to download on the Higher Education Library Technology (HELibTech) website. A meeting is being held in London on 19th May to explore the study’s findings and proposals.

For more information and also a short article on Shared Services in general go to the HELibTech ‘Shared Services’ page

6   Visit the National Art Library at the V&A – 24th May

ALISS (Association of Librarians and Information professionals in the Social Sciences) have organised a visit to the National Art Library based at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This public reference library is renowned for its collections of rare books and journals on the decorative arts. The visit will includes a tour of the facilities by staff, an opportunity to look at some of the treasures from the special collections – including fine book bindings and some of Dickens material and a chance to find out more about the library from staff.

No charge for ALISS Members. Non-members £5.  Tour will last approx 1.5 hours

To reserve a place please contact: Heather Dawson