The Serving Library neon 2011

The Serving Library neon 2011
Courtesy The Serving Library

How do we access, share and preserve information in the modern age? As we increasingly depend on technology, specifically the World Wide Web, and shy away from traditional sources of information, what is to become of the library?

The Serving Library provides an answer to what the library of the future could look like. Using three forms of publication – magazine (Bulletins of the Serving Library, formally Dot Dot Dot), exhibition and public talks programme – to educate, share and discuss information and ideas, The Serving Library offers a new structure for the traditional public library.

At its heart The Serving Library is a publishing institution based around two physical collections - of objects (artworks, artefacts and other materials) and books. These collections, assembled over the past fourteen years, form the basis of each publication which follows a three step process. Artworks are used to illustrate essays in the magazine which is published both on and offline. These works then leave the page for the gallery walls of various art galleries and museums before being used as the foundation for a series of public discussions. Each publication is then archived on The Serving Library website. This system, experimenting with new ways of organising and publishing information, embodies the evolving role of the traditional institution.

This final online strand of the project has been compared to an ‘engine room’, where the traditional act of borrowing occurs on the internet, where the Bulletins of The Serving Library are freely available to download as PDFs. The Serving Library thus becomes a globally accessible modernised borrowing system.

The display at Tate Liverpool is the next iteration of The Serving Library. Featuring nearly 100 objects from their collection, the display will include airbrush paintings by UK-based artist Chris Evans, a stencil print of Muriel Cooper’s pioneering 1977 Polaroid self-portrait and popular culture paraphernalia such as an upside down photograph of Harry Beck’s 1931 London Underground map sketch. Visitors will also be able to interact with the website in-gallery, encouraging interactions with the collection and the unusual links between seemingly disparate items.

The Serving Library will be ‘resident’ within architectural intervention La colline de l’art designed by Claude Parent and built in the Wolfson Gallery.

A series of talks on the subject of transmitting art and culture will inform the next Bulletins of The Serving Library, making The Serving Library a living document, evolving around that which populates it.