In Linchpin:  Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin shares his working definitions of art and artists and why art and artists matter more than ever in today’s world.

Who/What Are Artists?

I’m going to quote liberally from the book and share a compilation of Godin’s descriptors for artist:

“Artists are people with a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done…An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally..The artists in your life are gift-focused, and their tenacity has nothing at all to do with income or job security. Instead, it’s about finding a way to change you in a positive way, and to do it with a gift. There’s a strong streak of intellectual integrity involved in being a passionate artist. You don’t sell out, because selling out involves destroying the best of what you are.”

What Is Art?

In Linchpin, Godin describes art as:

“…a personal gift that changes the recipient…I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace..Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people..Art is unique, new, and challenging to the status quo. It’s not decoration, it’s something that causes change…Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself. It’s entirely possible that you’re an artist.  I call the process of doing your art “the work.” It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.  The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.”

In his blog post “Making Art“, Godin asserts “By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work.”  He identifies three key qualities of art:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

Why Art and Artists Matter to Librarians

So what do art and artists have to do with librarianship?  To be a linchpin, the person who can “bring it together and make a difference”,  Godin says we must:

Stop settling for what’s good enough and start creating art that matters. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people. Then, and only then, will you have achieved your potential.”

Not only does framing our work as art and seeing ourselves as artists re-envision us as library professionals, but treating our patrons as artists and providing them learning experiences to help them see themselves as artists cultivates their participation literacy.  If our mission is to help others learn and for the library to be a place and experience of creating art and sharing that gift, then “..the ones you freed to be artists, will rise to a level you can’t even imagine.”

As I reflected last month on my what I learned and how that was reflected in my work and the learning of my students and teachers, I posed these questions:

1.  What did they (your patrons or those you serve) learn through your library program and the conversations for learning you facilitated?  What do you hope they will learn in 2011?
2.  How do we know what they learned?  What tools did you use for assessment?  Did the patrons engage in metacognition and self-reflection on what they learned?
3.  How are you privileging and honoring what they learned?   Where are their stories of learning shared in your physical and virtual library spaces?

I think those questions dovetail perfectly with these essential questions:

  • How will you create art in 2011?  What are the gifts you have to share as an artist?
  • How will you help those you serve, whatever setting you are in, create art and nurture their growth as artists?  How are you and those you serve purposefully cultivating and reflecting on your art?
  • How are you spreading your gifts and your art?  How are your empowering those you serve to share their gifts and privileging their art?

Not only will I continue to try and share the answers I’m discovering along with my students and teachers to these questions here in this space and through my library’s virtual spaces, but I also hope that you will use social media and cloud computing in 2011 to share how you and those you serve in your library are creating and sharing your gifts of art.

How will you invite participation for art and artists through your library in 2011, and how will you participate as an artist in your learning community?