An artist in residence is not a new concept. Many museums and art communities have used this idea as a way to not only promote art and the artist but also as way to promote the establishment. For example, Faith Ringgold was a resident of the MacDowell Colony, Claes Oldenburg was a resident at Ox-Bow, and Kehinde Wiley and Alison Saar were both residents at Studio Museum in Harlem. However, the concept of a writing residency in a library is relatively new and uncharted territory, which seems odd considering how much most writers love and spend time in libraries. Best-selling author Neil Gaiman is a big advocate of libraries and has been quoted as saying, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
Currently, there are two programs exploring the writer/library relationship. They began in this past fall and both hope to continue in the future. Both the Public Library of Cincinnati’s “Writer-In-Residence” program and the “CHP in the Stacks” residency program from publishing company Coffee House Press (CHP) plan to offer stipends to selected writers to work in libraries and publicize their available resources.
Cincinnati Public Library hopes to show support for local writers and help to highlight their work through their residency program. The chosen writer will be given a monetary stipend and in turn will be required to teach a writer’s workshop, participate in library promotions, and speak at no less than four community events representing the library. Thanks to a donation from a local philanthropist, the library plans to continue the writer-in-residence program for three years.
Coffee House Press hopes that their writer-in-residency program will inspire other libraries to follow suit and collaborate with local writers. We’d love to hear about more writers-in-residency programs hosted by public libraries. If you know of one, tell us in the comments.