Incubating Creativity at Your Library: A Sourcebook for Connecting with Communities

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews

Creativity needs a platform. As technology consultant David Weinberger puts it, “A platform provides resources that lets other people build things.” The library is an ideal platform, and in this book Batykefer and Damon-Moore, creators of the Library as Incubator Project, share the experiences of numerous creative library workers and artists who are making it happen. Their stories will show you how to move beyond merely responding to community needs towards actively building a platform with your community. And best of all, you don’t need to start from scratch—rather, you amplify what’s already working. Filled with ideas and initiatives that can be customized to suit your library and its community, this book

  • discusses the four elements (Resources, Invitations, Partnerships & Engagement, and Staff) and the two lenses (Community-Led and Evaluation) of the Creative Library platform;
  • outlines six steps for surveying your community’s artistic landscape;
  • gives methods for expanding partnerships and connections with individuals and organizations through exploration, hands-on learning, and engagement with the community;
  • shares perspectives on the “ideal library” from several artists, with three examples of artist-in-residence programs;
  • offers examples of community invitations in action, such as the Pittsburgh Fiberarts Guild workshops on creating flowers using recycled materials;
  • shows how to use “orphan photos” from your archives for creative inspiration;
  • advises on using qualitative evaluations to effectively “weed” your initiatives; and
  • shares tips for encouraging library staff to express their creativity, turning avocations into library initiatives like Handmade Crafternoons, the Yahara Music Library, or BOOKLESS.

By building on existing elements at your library and filling in the gaps with community-driven additions, your library can be a space that cultivates creativity in both its users and staff.


Chapter 1: The Creative Library Platform
Chapter 2: The Elements: Resources
Chapter 3: The Elements: Invitations
Chapter 4: The Elements: Partnerships and Engagement
Chapter 5: The Elements: Library Staff
Chapter 6: The Lenses: Community-Led Invitations
Chapter 7: The Lenses: Evaluation
Chapter 8: The Creative Library Platform in Practice
Chapter 9: Packaging and Sharing the Creative Library Platform

  • Appendix A. The Library as Incubator Project Kit: The Great Poetry Hunt
  • Appendix B. Online Form: Data Collection for Program Assessment


Erinn Batykefer

Erinn Batykefer earned her MFA degree in writing and her MLIS at the University of Wisconsin−Madison. She is the author of Allegheny, Monongahela (2007) and coauthor of The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide (2014) with Laura Damon-Moore. She cofounded and edited the Library as Incubator Project from 2010 to 2017, and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2014 for her work. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Laura Damon-Moore

Laura Damon-Moore has an MLIS degree from the University of Wisconsin−Madison. She is currently a community engagement librarian at the Central Library of the Madison Public Library. She has spoken on community engagement and creativity in libraries for the American Library Association, the South by Southwest conference, and several state and county library associations. She was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2014 for her work as cofounder and editor of the Library as Incubator Project. In 2014 she coauthored The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide from the Library as Incubator Project with Erinn Batykefer.

"This resource offers fresh and exciting advice that should inspire creative programs in all kinds of public libraries."
— Booklist

"The reassuring and enthusiastic tone will bolster librarians: 'You can do this. You already have plenty to work with.' ... A valuable and inspiring guide for developing community programs. "
— Library Journal