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Drawing Rutgers: Creativity and Play as Stressbusters

Q&A with Art Librarian Megan Lotts

The New Brunswick Campus, As Seen by the Art Librarian is the latest addition to the Books We Read (BWR) Gallery. Previous projects by Megan Lotts (MCL) shared in online mini exhibits during the pandemic include:

Ever curious about creativity, whether arts or writing, Books We Read hosted a Stressbuster Q&A session with Megan, hoping to distract and inspire all who need it here and now. Other than asking her, we also put together a mini gallery Sketching: From details to colors with images representing the process of creating art from just a few lines.

BWR: Thank you for agreeing to showcase your awesome sketches again as Fall 2022 Stressbusters. How long have you been sketching the Rutgers-campus theme?

MCL: In the Fall of 2020, I got back into a regular sketching/drawing practice likely due to the pandemic as well as the Rutgers Urban Sketching Project. But in general, I always have some type of creative or “making” project going on.

BWR: What was the first Rutgers location you picked to sketch and why? 

MCL: When I go back to Instagram the first image I posted was on January 3, 2021. This was two drawings of the Art Library which I made when we were was closed for 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BWR: Was there a building or place that created a special challenge?

MCL: Not that I can think of.  If I find anything is a challenge during my process, I simply put the work down for a bit and come back to it when I’m ready. It’s not unheard of that I would have a few drawings going on at a time.

BWR: The number of page views indicate that your Books We Read galleries and related posts are very popular. Your post about zines was viewed over 600 times, among the top 10 visited! What do other assessment methods tell about your work shared elsewhere?

MCL: To be honest this project is for FUN.  I love that people like the drawings and there has been some buzz on social media, but in truth I never really know what will happen with any of my projects or work.  I gave up the idea of being an artist for a living a long time ago, yet I’m lucky to find a career where I can meld my life as an artist, an art librarian, and an academic. Granted if this was a work project I would answer this question in a different way because having a culture of assessment is key in advancing the mission of any library.

BWR: As an artist, do you work upon request?

MCL: I do get requests for drawings all the time, and I often surprise folks with drawings I’ve made about them or a space they are connected to.  A lot of my drawings have made it onto buttons, and I regularly use them for publicity and zines.  Recently I made a google map where I am adding my drawings, and I even made a 4” by 6” book a few weeks back when Walgreens was having a holiday sale 😊.

But I also want to note that sometimes I make drawings and tag the person or subject they are about, and it leads to something great! Recently Duchess Farms used one of my drawings for their t-shirts and tote bags because they didn’t feel their logo was enough. Now one of my drawings is travelling around the world via T-shirts.

BWR: Your book, Advancing a Culture of Creativity in Libraries: Programming and Engagement, advocates to engage users in fun activities, such as Urban Sketching that you actually did here at Rutgers-New Brunswick. How do they work in creating communities?

MCL: In my eyes creativity and building community go hand in hand.  This can be something as simple as making a meal together, or more advanced like painting a mural together. In projects like Urban Sketching a community came together and shared their everyday world through sketching at a time when we were all forced apart. Projects like these, even when virtual, can bring together disciplines that don’t always work together and this fosters future collaboration, partnerships, and innovation.

BWR: You seem to take playing seriously, pun intended. Rumor has it that you’ve been working on the playbook of playbooks. How do you see the role of play in libraries in general? How can one balance playing and providing services in academic libraries?

MCL: Although libraries continue to advance culture and support the public, we regularly face budget cuts, resources are always dwindling, and there’s never enough staff. Play and creativity can be an affordable easy way to bring communities together.  But as a teaching strategy, active learning including play and creativity is a way to center the learner which can empower individuals’ voices is new and exciting ways.

Lastly, we cannot forget it’s important to play at work because this can boost morale, teaches us to work together, and helps with innovation. We need to get away from boring meetings where one person talks to everyone. We need to engage and work together if we want to provide rich services and resources for our communities and advance the field of librarianship.

BWR: Just as with book discussions, one doesn’t need a background or any prior training to enjoy sketching. What can you recommend to those of us less skilled and talented to get started?

MCL: First there’s a lot of ways to be creative. There are no right or wrong answers, and the key is finding what you like to do and following that passion.  But don’t fall into the trap of spending too much time virtually looking at creativity. As the company Nike says, “Just do it.” Then hold on for the ride and see where it takes you.

BWR: Thank you for sharing some tricks of the trade. Hope your images continue to inspire us. Wishing you the best of luck with you art, play, and book.

Featured on the cover of the December issue of College and Research Libraries News: Scott Hall (College Ave Campus) by Megan Lotts


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