A View From the Stacks: Exhibit Space Means the Library is Much More Than Just Books

Column by CAROL MEINE
Gallery Manager, Mesa Public Library

From cutting edge contemporary art installations to quilts, recycled scrap metal sculpture to World War II memorabilia, traveling museum exhibits to exhibits designed and created by university students, the Mesa Public Library Art Gallery provides the only flexible, general exhibition space in Los Alamos County.

It is a great space:  light filled and soaring, a gem tucked away on the third floor in the landmark building designed by world renowned architect Antoine Predock, dubbed by New Mexico museum professionals one of the best public exhibition venues in the state.

Is it unusual to have an art gallery in a library? Libraries and museums are both much more than their stereotyped images suggest: not just books and not just dusty collections but vital community centers of imagination, creativity, and possibility.

Now, more than ever, those possibilities are being extended by all kinds of new technology: mobile apps guide museum visitors through exhibits, providing as much detail as the viewer could want; searchable databases, downloadable books and resources provide access both on site and from wherever patrons are online.

Los Alamos is fortunate to have such a unique asset that might just be the next big thing: to have a world of resources in one institution fostering a broad range of different kinds of literacies, or 21st Century Skills, as identified by the Institute of Museum and Library Studies. http://www.imls.gov/about/21st_century_skills_list.aspx

Both museums and libraries are our cultural caretakers, our community’s heart and soul, providing information, programs, and fun for all ages and for all members of our diverse population. More and more often, our wide ranging community cultural and educational groups are forming partnerships to enhance offerings to those with different interests and tastes.

Underground of Enchantment: Lechuguilla Cave of Carlsbad Caverns, our latest exhibition opening on April 5, is a great mix of all these aspects. Fabulous 3D photographs, complete with 3D glasses for viewing, will be shown at Mesa Public Library’s Art Gallery and 3D slide shows and short films will be shown at PEEC, giving glimpses into one of the largest caves in the world, otherwise unseen except by scientific researchers.

The library and PEEC are collaborating on programming around the exhibits too with a full slate of talks, outings, and more during the run of the show through May 29. This exhibit has it all-art, science, and adventure to boot!

For complete information about the exhibit and programs please visit: www.losalamosnm.us or pajaritoeec.org. This exhibit and other programs and services are made possible with support from The Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries. The traveling exhibit Underground of Enchantment is organized and circulated by the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center.

Planned exhibits in the coming year include works on paper by local artist Meg Kremer in June and the down home charm of the annual  Los Alamos County Fair exhibits in August , just to name a few.   Be sure to make a regular habit of checking out the Mesa Public Library Art Gallery!

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