Libraries are full of stories, but local artist Liz Nofziger is on the hunt for ones that can’t be found in the catalogue. As the Public Library of Brookline’s inaugural artist in residence, Nofziger has been gathering library-related memories for her Library Study project, taking submissions online and IRL at a tiny study room in the main branch, which she’s transformed into the Ruby Carrel—a red-lit nook where visitors can slip handwritten notes into a gap between the desk and the wall. “It feels like you’re kind of giving it to the building, giving it into the architecture, which I like,” says Nofziger, who’ll be creating installations inspired by the responses this fall. She answered some questions about her studio in the stacks.
You started the project by reading written histories of the library. What did you discover? The Public Library of Brookline has always been a really innovative institution. One interesting fact is that they had the first children’s room in the nation. Initially it was in the basement, and the janitor was in charge of the children. There were two publications they were allowed to look at, and only if they had clean hands…. Another crazy fact is that the original library building was moved from one spot to another—the whole building, ground level up. It was moved over two months on jacks and railroad ties, so it was this crazy engineering feat, and they never closed service. You could still go in! Learning this stuff, it totally makes sense that they’re willing to invite an artist in to play with the library.
So what’s it like inside the Ruby Carrel? I used translucent vinyl on all the windows, so it’s a little surface, a chair and these two glass walls that now are covered with this red, which sort of puts you inside a piece of candy. I really like the playful candy association of the color red, but also the kind of seedy, dirtier side—like red-light districts, the whole range of associations with this color. It’s really juicy. You’re getting an altered view of the outside world—I chose the study carrel closest to School Street, so you have traffic going by, kindergartners walking past, life happening outside in this new rose framing—and the sun also brings a spray of red light into the library. So it’s transforming your view of the exterior and experience of the interior.
Any especially memorable submissions so far? There was a really lovely story of two people meeting by chance and connecting over a conversation about a book, and then this led to a life together. She was there to do some research, the kind of research you would do on the internet now. So there’s something about the time before we all had this immediate access to information in our private world, where you had to go somewhere and spend time in a physical place, and this happened to lead her to this conversation that changed the course of her life. So that was cool, and sort of mourning the time before we had computers in our pockets.
Visit brooklinepubliclibraryair.org to submit your own story, and take in a tour and a talk by Nofziger at Library Study’s closing event on Nov. 10.
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