Exhibition: The Librarians at the Queens College Art Center

Friday is my library day. I wake up; I come over, I look for a quiet, comfortable spot; I settle down, and I read for hours. Plots unfold, and characters grow; before I know it, I’ve reached the final pages, and it’s already dark outside. Time flies when you’re at the library.

What is a library? For me, it is a place of imagination – a place of books, of discovery, and of endless time. Of course, everyone has their own definition; everyone has their own library experience.

Few, however, have much experience with librarians; they, indeed, are a mystery to many. What does a librarian do? What is it like to work in that bustling point of imagination?

The Librarians does not try to answer my questions; rather, it complicates them, destabilizes them. Indeed – this dizzying conglomerate of objects, paintings, and assorted installation pieces challenges our understanding of libraries, and of their keepers.

I was struck, for example, by a number of rough, colorful paintings of faces; they are bruise-like, deep scars on an otherwise smooth surface. Are they smiling? Sneering? Are they librarians? Or are they patrons? Students? I am unsure; I begin to question my own place within the library. Am I merely a patron? Or am I also part of the library? Am I, by virtue of my gaze, my reading, a librarian? Are we all librarians?

I was also intrigued by an installation of thin, multi-colored papers, all of which bore names and titles; as they progressed, slowly, from left to right, their colors began to fade, to run, as though the printer had run out of ink.

Is knowledge, then, fading? Are books a relic? Are they, and libraries, doomed to obsolescence, to blankness? Or will that printer be restocked? Will the vibrant pages return? Again, I am unsure.

Sprinkled throughout the exhibition are the tools, the trappings of the librarian; diagrams litter the glass windows, and an entire apparatus – a desk, computer, stack of books – sits, idly, by the exit. I wonder why they are here; I wonder if they are an anchor, a point of reference, or if they destabilize my experience further.

Ultimately, I am left puzzled – and wanting to speak to a librarian. Indeed, I want to know more – I want to know how that apparatus works, and, more broadly, what a librarian actually does.

This exhibit is a treasure; it has drawn me in to a world I had always overlooked. Definitely go see it – and go talk to a librarian!

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To learn more about this exhibit, click here.

The Queens College Art Center is located on the 6th floor of Rosenthal Library. Go visit!

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