Note: portions of this post are duplicated at the ZSR Library Gazette.
On Thursday, July 29, my library was lucky to have two special visitors from the University of Portsmouth in the UK: art professors Claire Sambrook and Maureen O’Neill, creators of the Visual Libraries project. Claire and Maureen obtained a grant to visit Winston-Salem to check on the status of the Leave Your Mark project at Forsyth County Public Library that was inspired by Visual Libraries.
I originally read about Visual Libraries in a news email for libraries in 2009 while a librarian at FCPL and gathered a group of librarians to see if we could emulate the project in the US. When our fledgling project started, I contacted Claire, who was an enthusiastic supporter of our efforts. Fast-forward one year — FCPL has 36 Leave Your Mark books, Claire and Maureen are visiting Winston-Salem, and we are investigating the possibility of making Leave Your Mark into a collaborative project between FCPL and WFU!
Candace Brennan, a reference librarian at Central Library downtown, took over the project and has been promoting it widely in the community. She hosted our friends from Portsmouth, held two workshops at FCPL, and invited me to host a workshop which took place in the Rare Book reading room. Their and the project visit were featured in the Winston-Salem Journal.
Claire and Maureen demonstrated how their project started as a small idea and expanded into a community asset, incorporating faculty, students, and the community at large. They have over 230 blank art journals circulating in Portsmouth! Workshop participants were invited to add our own art to the FCPL and Portsmouth art journals in order to get a taste of the Visual Libraries/Leave Your Mark experience.
When the books are filled, they are treated as artists’ books and are added to the special collections area of the North Carolina Room at Central Library in downtown Winston-Salem. My library is interested in making this a collaborative effort, perhaps incorporating artist work into digital exhibits and traveling exhibits that highlight the work of local artists, art faculty and students, and the general public together.