Libraries as Cultural/Tech Developers: Two Great New Residencies


I’ve always been excited about (and I’ve tried to advocate for) libraries as “space of exception” for cultural creation and tech development. As the Library as Incubator project, the Reanimation Library, the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and various library- and archive-based residencies attest, libraries are fertile grounds for creative work — literary and otherwise. Libraries and archives are also great potential employers and collaborators for artists, designers, technologists, etc., who want to apply their skills in an environment committed more to public service and open access than to market-driven imperatives. I’ve taken part in several discussions over the past few years in which we’ve built up excitement over the potential spread of library- and archive-based residencies. Just last January, after he and I took part in a big workshop up at Simmons College in Boston, Jer Thorpe posted a stirring call for “An Artist in Every Library.”

I’m really excited to see that, within the past two weeks, not one but TWO super-exciting new library residencies have arisen in New York (full disclosure: I’m on the board of trustees for the first organization, and on the fellowship jury for the second!)


METRO Fellowship

First, the Metropolitan Library Council has announced a brand-new fellowship program dedicated to “empower[ing] a small cohort of fellows to help solve cross-institutional problems and to spur innovation within our membership and the field at large.” METRO serves over 250 NYC institutions — from university and museum libraries to digital archives and documentary heritage services — by providing shared reference and research resources, and developing new collaborative services and systems. Among its many programs are the Knight Foundation-funded Culture in Transit mobile digitization unit and local activity within the National Digital Stewardship Residency; METRO also serves as state hub for the Digital Public Library of America.

The new METRO Fellowship invites artists, designers, technologists, engineers, researchers, entrepreneurs, etc., to submit proposals to partner with some of its member institutions to develop new technologies, systems, services, etc. — ideally prioritizing open tech, open access, data-driven methods, service design,  —  that will help to solve real-world, cross-institutional problems. First, METRO’s institutional members will submit “reserve pitches” regarding challenges or “problems of practice” they commonly face. “METRO staff and a fellowship advisory council will…work with each institution behind the scenes to understand and refine their pitches. This process will ignite instigations and provocations for potential fellows. In addition, it will begin to surface some of the hidden opportunities for cross-institutional collaborations.” After that period of refinement and inter-institutional connection-making, potential fellows will be invited to submit proposals in response, and METRO staff and advisors will then serve as liaisons to cultivate alignments between fellows and hosting institutions.

Institutions begin submitting their “reverse pitches” on February 1, then potential fellows are invited to chime in on March 15. More info here.



NYPL Remix Residency

And my friends at NYPL Labs had quite a bang-up week last week! Not only did they release 180,000 new digitized photos, maps, and ephemera into the public domain; unveil a few awesome tools for visualizing and remixing those digital collections; and open up all their digital collection data for searching, crawling, and refashioning; but they also announced a new Remix Residency designed to encourage “transformative and creative uses of digital collections and data, and the public domain assets in particular.” Applicants — artists, information designers, software developers, data scientists, journalists, digital researchers, etc. — are invited to consider opportunities for collection-based mappings, visualizations, generative art, games, bots, interactives — and, I’d add, other unnamed or unnameable genres!

Applications are due February 19 (see here for more info). The jury will be emphasizing the following dimensions in its review:

  • Creativity and engagement: Is the project re-using NYPL public domain materials in an engaging way that we haven’t seen before?
  • New perspective and usability: Will this project help users see the collections in new ways, by recontextualizing, remixing, or recombining the collection?
  • Feasibility: Is the project scaled and scoped so that it can be completed during the duration of the residency?

Apply, apply, apply!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *