The gallery you can’t see

If you’re enjoying the exhibition of drawings by Danielle Bursk and photographs by Allen Kesselaut in the second floor Reference Galley (a partnership with the Arts Council of Princeton), you might be interested to know that there’s another gallery in the library, this one primarily for employees, but sometimes seen by wayward customers. How this gallery, and its current exhibit, came to be is the topic of this post, which should be of interest since we know longtime customers enjoy behind-the-scenes peeks at the library.

The story begins with our Employee Sustainability Committee, which thinks of ways to make the library more environmentally friendly, institutionally and among employees. Seeking to promote employee health and reduce energy use, the committee politely suggested that we take the stairwells instead of the service elevator. The stairwell on the northeast side of the building gets the most employee traffic and the Sustainability Committee first set up a contest to see who would forego the elevator and take the stairs the most times in a month.

Next, came a colorful collection of photos of the monarch butterfly, the subject of a May program funded by the Garden Club of Princeton and the Friends of Princeton Open Space. These hung for awhile, but the accompanying fact sheets began to fall down and, even though they were colorful and beautiful, like monarchs, their life cycle was short.

So one early morning, while listening to Miles Davis in the otherwise-empty Administration Office, I was inspired to mount our third exhibit, “35 Masters of 20th Century Jazz and Classical Music Tim Likes.” Spare black-and-white photos of artists as disparate as Scott Joplin and Terry Riley share space with water valves and auto-on lights (and the occassional monarch butterfly) in an otherwise unremarkable stairwell, nothing like the grand staircase customers use to get between floors. This guerrilla exhibit sparked a contest with prizes for whoever could name the most artists — it was won by a former pop music editor of Sound & Vision magazine who works in Lending Services — and led to the startling realization that a young, enthusiastic and intelligent colleague could not identify a photo of Louis Armstrong.

As I told my young colleague, all 35 artists are represented in the library’s physical collection of music, which is particularly rich in jazz, and in our Hoopla streaming service. Start listening. And next time you see a “Staff Only” sign in the library, just remember, there could be something special behind the door.

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