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Friday, June 9 • 1:50pm - 2:10pm
Rule No. 5 : The Library is a Growing Organism

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“A library is a growing organism,” reads the fifth “rule” of library science, as penned in 1931 by S.R. Ranganathan, widely considered to be the father of library science. In an ever-shifting cultural and information landscape where libraries have become far more than just books, it’s the last of Ranganathan’s guiding principles that prompts us to continuously respond to our environment and deeply interrogate the ways we curate, collect, organize, and preserve information for generations to come. In a world where the predominant form of museum tours is a “voice of god” narrator interpreting a place, space, or art on the wall, a global community of librarians has other ideas about how stories of the library–as concept, as space, as entity– can be told.

Rule N° 5 is an interactive audio experience that lives at the intersection of public humanities, critical librarianship, and installation art. As library workers reflect upon Ranganathan’s rules, this collaboration offers a sneak peek into the magical, mysterious, complicated, and controversial work happening inside the library– a place that visitors might not otherwise explore beyond its surface.

Rule N° 5 encourages a deeper exploration of the library through six interactive objects permanently installed in NYU’s Bobst Library. Each interactive object contains audio content to be explored by the user, inviting visitors to tune into a place they frequent but might have not consciously considered. A card catalog, for instance, plays a short audio collage about systemic harm in official cataloging language endorsed by the Library of Congress when visitors open its drawers. A custom built radio invites visitors to scroll through a number of simulated librarian pirate radio stations that counter library stereotypes through programs that feature music written and performed by librarians to a book dedication talk show.

There is no single history or way of knowing the library. Instead in Rule N° 5, carefully crafted sound compositions offer a multitude of voices and stories, sparking curiosity, wonder, and joy at the invisibility and vastness of library work. Our project engages listeners in conversations about core questions of labor, power, authority, and the politics of seemingly innocuous library labor.

We propose to present on this project, grounded in social and critical public history. We will overview the artistic collaboration, which defies traditional hierarchical and authoritative notions of authorship, and offer attendees a listening experience of sound compositions alongside engaging visuals of the completed installation.


Amanda Belantara

New York University

AM Alpin

New York University, United States of America

Friday June 9, 2023 1:50pm - 2:10pm EDT
Main 212