Library as Student Showcases and Classrooms

This was a short article I prepared in 2017 to capture the outreach work during my time at the Art, Design & Media Library, NTU Singapore. We use the library as student showcases. The creativity of the students and the dedication of the lecturers amazed me every time I looked at the photos we took of all the works and displays.

The library is traditionally a place to find and consume information. The art librarians, however, quickly recognized that students in the School of Art, Design & Media are creators as much as they are consumers. We wanted a piece of the action, and here is how we did it.

1. Display of Course Assignment Outputs

Outputs of creative course assignments were displayed in the library as a group. For example:

DR2007 Surface Design is a practice and studio-based course where students are introduced to the aesthetic and practical functions of a surface. They learn to apply designs onto a wide range of surfaces and materials using a range of techniques.

Their final outputs demonstrate how well they understood the concept and processes. These were displayed on the brown bench in the middle of the library together with their mood boards and labels. 

DM2002 Sound Art is a platform for students to explore sound as an artistic medium and as an integral part of multimedia art forms. They are exposed to contemporary genres, relevant exponents, practices, and aesthetics. They develop strategies and techniques for creating sound sculptures, installations, and performances.

One semester, students created a series of sounds based on a library book “Atlas of Remote Islands: fifty islands I have never set foot on and never will” by Judith Schalansky. The collection of sounds was made available via a PC set up at the Wall of Contention where 2 single sofa seats allow users to listen to the sounds and read the book in comfort. 

DV3009 Information Visualization is a studio-based course examining methods of envisioning information. Students’ final outputs turn complex patterns into compelling artwork and unique design solutions.

These interesting artworks in the form of clear plastic books, postcards, posters, maps, and more were hung or displayed at the glass window display usually used for thematic book displays. 

DR2002 Issues in Product Design Practice: Exhibition Design is a studio-based course that introduces design principles and methodologies used in exhibition-making today. It exposes the students to the synergy between designing in space and forming a narrative that uses objects and a variety of media to create a meaningful visitor experience.

The students stage a mini-exhibition based on several themes at the glass window display. 

We worked directly with the instructors of these creative and practice-based courses to coordinate the mini-exhibitions.

The window display is a challenging space to work with. The students tested a variety of techniques to secure their exhibits.

2. Individual Installations and Critique

We invited students to propose a space they would like to use to set up their installations and hold their critique sessions. Some students in DD3008 Cities, Bodies, Memories – Art & Everyday Life in Contemporary Singapore and DV3005 Brand Design took up our offer, while others like DN1008 4D Foundation II have no choice because it is compulsory. It is good to have a supportive Foundation coordinator. 🙂

We were pleasantly surprised that some students’ works revolved around library themes. Here are a few interesting examples:

Mini Bookshelves Visitors – Imagine tiny visitors roaming the library shelves at night.
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The Untold Story – visitors are encouraged to continue telling the untold story.
Death Masks – A student toys with the idea that unread books are like death masks
Bookdrop paranoia – Imagination runs wild about books that are returned via the book drop. Where do they go after this?
Banned books are inaccessible but their banned status serves as flags drawing attention
A student suggested an exam care pack even before mental well-being became hot

3. Small-Group Installations

Student teams from DV3003 Spatial Design were challenged to conceive, construct and read a designed environment. They were to design an installation to showcase selected library books within the library. Each year’s theme is different.

The art librarians were heavily involved in giving feedback on the initial concepts as well as the final critique sessions. The final 4 installations utilized different principles and techniques and proved that spatial design and implementation is no easy feat. 

How our students would display books on architecture
A Kusama-inspired window display
How might a book display on pottery be presented?
A book display on geometric packaging

In closing, lecturers we worked with commented that the library offers the students a good opportunity to work with spaces outside the school. They learned, in a safe and cost-free environment, to respect the venue, manage the limitations, and follow the rules. 

For me personally, it was a very satisfying project to conceptualize and implement.

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Library as student showcases and classrooms

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