Library Science at Artspace in New Haven through Jan. 28

Library Science

Through Jan. 28, 2012. Artspace, 50 Orange St. (203) 772-2709,


Do you curl up with a book or a nook, kindle or iPad? Where do you turn for news and entertainment? Where do you go to learn?

Our browse-at-will, on-demand habits and reliance on the World Wide Web is changing myriad professions and institutions, arguably none as much as the field of Library and Information Science.

But isn't the internet a virtual library? Nope. Despite the pace of digitalizing books, images, and streaming audio, there is little to be had there, in comparison to libraries. Not just for reasons of copyright, licensing, and fee-based usage, either.

Like museums of art and history, libraries are repositories for rare, specialized physical collections and archives, which they continue to acquire, catalog and preserve.

And a librarian, a research expert, can direct you to resources that will help answer complex questions. Or guide you when information overload becomes frustrating.

Library operations and services, and the public's use of them, have fascinated visual arts curator Rachel Gugelberger for at least the past six years. The result is the exhibition Library Science, on view this fall and early winter at New Haven's Artspace.

Library Science features 17 works by established contemporary artists from New York and California, Mexico, France and Germany, and embraces painting, drawing and sculpture, photography, and web-based installations. Some explore library organization, such as open stacks and now near-defunct card catalog drawers and cabinets (having been replaced by computer data bases). Others depict scholars poring over print treasures.

And at four libraries within walking distance of Artspace, related work by Connecticut artists Colin Burke, Heather Lawless, Carol Padberg and Tyler Starr (who were selected by Gugelberger with gallery staff) will be concurrently on view.

The show's title is a term that became common usage in the early 20th century to describe the study and practice of library administration and functions. The field was professionalized by Melvil [sic] Dewey, founder of the first library education program in 1887 at Columbia College (now University) in New York City, and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System.

Imagine, the breadth of responsibilities and need for specialization was urgent then for managing the storage, retrieval, and classification of printed matter and art objects. Today, keeping apace with technology reminds Trinity College librarian Dr. Richard S. Ross of the Red Queen's words to Alice in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass": "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times