Spoken word between the stacks

Loud in the Library highlights changing role of campus libraries

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Anyone who’s ever been shushed in a library probably doesn’t associate that space with the phrase “spoken word.”

But Loud in the Library is taking a novel approach to on-campus events by hosting the Nov. 30 open-mic event in the University of Winnipeg Library. The event, presented by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) and the library, is a spoken word showcase open to anyone and everyone.

This is the second spoken word event to be held in the library. Potential performers unnerved by the vagueness of the term “spoken word” need not worry, Morgan Brightnose, the vice president internal affairs for the UWSA, says.

“Anyone can go up. We’ve had poets, student writers, writers from Juice Journal, comedians and even people reading from their notes off their phones on the spot,” Brightnose says.

“The event is meant to give a space for people to ‘speak words.’ Whether that be a form of poetry or a grocery list, it’s all a form of expression that will be nice to share in the coziness of the library.”

Brightnose says it was ideal to hold the event “where people could share their words surrounded by walls of printed ones.”

“Libraries have a certain mysticism to them. Especially on campus – being quiet, finding the same daily study spot, knowing everyone’s minds are buzzing with information,” Brightnose says. “It seems fitting to open up a space to talk and express some of these thoughts in a place where they are potentially learned.”

Assessment and communications librarian Joshua Herter says the University of Winnipeg Library has made an effort to host more events in recent years with hopes of increasing their capacity to do so.

“(Loud in the Library) is probably the biggest, loudest … most high-profile thing we do,” Herter says. “Our science librarian does a lot of work with the UW Let’s Talk Science group.”

Herter says they’ve done experimental demonstrations for Science Literacy Week and do a regular Science Storytime for the UWSA Day Care.

There are logistical challenges to hosting an event in the library, Herter says, which point to larger trends about the changing role of campus libraries.

“More people are coming into the library for a wider variety of reasons, which requires our staff have new and expanded expertise,” Herter says. “The traditional caretaking of physical items is still a vital part of our mandate and that will never go away completely.”

He says they’re trying to predict what the library will need in 10 years, which means re-organizing to support high-quality academic programming.

The expanding utility of library spaces points to some of the challenges in updating the university’s library, Herter says.

“We have no dedicated lecture or performance space, and while the spiral staircases and lofty mezzanines bring a lot of character, they’re inaccessible, isolated and hard to keep clean.”

Herder says the library was built at a time when libraries were seen as storage for information rather than changing institutions, and thus was built to support a student body the quarter of the current size.

Loud in the Library will be held Thursday, Nov. 30 from 6-8 p.m. in the University of Winnipeg Library. Free food and drinks will be available. The show is open-mic format, and all voices are welcome.

Published in Volume 72, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2017)

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