Last night I attended the VALA AGM and 2016 Williamson Lecture at the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library.

Mal Booth is the University Librarian at UTS (University of Technology Sydney), and the 2016 Williamson Award recipient. He spoke about the UTS Library Artist-in-Residence Program that he began in 2012. I loved hearing about this program - such a great initiative that has reaped wonderful rewards in terms of cultural engagement with the library and its collections.

Mal has a great sense of how artists see the world differently, and how their creative way of thinking can be utilised to build connections between the library, its users, and its stakeholders in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Artists can represent the library's value in an interesting, human, and culturally rich way - providing so much more than numbers and statistics can.

Artists approach the library and its data, systems and processes differently to librarians. They use their imagination and creativity to think about it differently, visualise it differently, express it differently (I know I'm over-using the word 'differently', but that's the emphasis I'm trying to make!). Artists can mix up information and play with it to produce brand new ways of relating to it. With a little help from aesthetic intervention (my new favourite term) they can make information beautiful.

As well as creating amazing artworks, installations and data visualisation techniques, the artists in residence are helping UTS to build its own new special collections. Their ongoing relationships with the library bring continuing benefits even after the residency has finished.

Information about the UTS Library Artist-in-Residence Program and the work created by the artists since 2012 is available on the UTS Library website, including links to each of the artists' projects.

And if you'd like to get a taste of what else Mal is thinking about re: the future of academic libraries, check out this Slideshare presentation from November last year.

Finally, it was lovely to catch up, however briefly, with some awesome friends at the talk, and to marvel at the small-world connectedness of the people I'm lucky enough to know :)

South Lawn in the evening, looking towards the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne