Sunday, 7 December 2014

Andrew Carnegie - icon for advent (7) - Icon of libraries and philanthropy

One can define ArtCraftDesign in terms of 'art' and 'craft' and 'design' but also in terms of the 'arts, crafts and designs' of actually living - trying to live well, honestly, according to one's beliefs and making the most of one's talents.

As a librarian there is obviously a direct connection for me with my icon for today, Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropic work emphasised public libraries around the world. So today I want to revert to my former public librarian status (I now run a school library rather than co-ordinating the work of several public ones) and ensure you are all aware (and it always amazes me how many people are not aware) of just what you may be able to benefit from - often for free - from public and other libraries as designers and business people. There is much much more you could also benefit from as parents and individuals in your own right but that would take more than one post. And while the following has a British perspective, I encourage those of you from other parts of the world to investigate what's available to you locally too.

Discovering surface pattern design I heard of a book and searched for it on Gloucestershire Libraries online catalogue. I reserved it and it was delivered to my nearest branch. For the next few months that book bounced between me and an unknown other library member in Cheltenham. Every time I reserved it, they returned it to let me have my go and they duly reserved it to borrow it again after me. Share and share alike and a 'greener' use of resources. Plus I didn't commit my own funds until I was sure I needed to own the book (I didn't, as I got what I needed just from borrowing). So try before you buy. Public library membership is free; local charges for reserving books may vary but are kept as low as possible.

Local library authorities vary in the exact services they provide and the books they buy depending on their catchment areas and their budgets. If there is something you think they should have, suggest it. They will not always be able to justify purchasing (eg if it is likely to be just you wanting it), but they will often consider it.

From the main library website for your area, a good link to follow would be to online / virtual or e-reference services. These will often include business research services: Worcestershire Libraries for example offer Cobra (Complete Business Reference Advisor), and British Standards online; other authorities  also include something called Kompass - which is business to business information, or MintUK business information. Cornwall Libraries also link to local business help and support from their pages; other local authorities might keep that information separate from their library pages. Internet use in public libraries can often be free or minimally charged.

University and academic libraries won't let you join (unless you are a student or staff member obviously) but many of them do have to allow public access as part of their charter. You won't know what you'll find necessarily, but if your local institution runs art related courses or business, law, etc courses then it's worth a morning spent browsing. Sometimes the most serendipitous 'findings' occur (eg I now know that a book called The Luxury Strategy is held by the University of the West of England in Bristol). Don't forget such institutions may also run short courses and summer schools of interest.

We librarians both honour Andrew Carnegie and curse the difficulty & expense of maintaining, heating, insulating and adapting for modern use such (often listed) buildings.

Let me tell you another reason why he inspires me: I do not know whether I will make my fortune or even a decent living in the surface pattern design / luxury scarf world.  I (like most of us) could sometimes wish for a bit more freedom & flexibility in my finances, a bit more security about the future. But right from the beginning I recognise that I am not in the world alone and relatively speaking I am lucky. So 5% of any profit I make will be donated to Unicef. There are many charities I could have chosen but it has taken me till I'm nearly 50 to know what I want to do and have the courage to go for it. How much talent for the world dies when little children die or have to spend their lives fetching water, scrabbling a living from rubbish heaps, are enslaved to make chocolate for the rest of us, and so on? I want  to make sure my supply chains are as 'blame free' as possible and that will not be easy. Carnegie built his fortune on steel and that process, I'm sure, was not always 'blame free' but his attitude was that with the wealth created he had a chance to improve things; without it he didn't. Life is ever a compromise.

Gosh. That was all a bit serious. Here's a (very) quick Christmas market pattern to lighten the mood.

Joy to the world!

Much love


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I'd love to hear what you think and what you're up to, creatively. Feel free to leave me a message. Thanks, Catherine