Project Library – how you can make it work

Anti-Prom 2009: \”Vam-Prom,\” Episode 1

So, teens and fashion. They go together pretty well, right? Teens take clothes, modify them to suit their mood, personality, and taste. They share accessories (no matter what adults might say about hygiene), share shirts, and even swap pants in the middle of the day. Now, imagine pairing teens’ natural interest in fashion with the resources of a library. Still with me? Okay, now imagine that you can put together teens, fashion, and Tim Gunn. Now I’ve lost you, right? But this is exactly what we were able to do for Project Library, where fashion focused teens worked with Tim Gunn to sketch an outfit that could appear at the 5th Annual Anti-Prom : Vam-Prom at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of The New York Public Library.

I’m hoping you’ll keep reading and not write this off completely. I can see where it would be easy to dismiss as something that would never be possible for a library not in New York City, but bear with me. I have some ideas that you might be able to use.

Yes, we were able to bring Tim Gunn in to provide our teen participants with individual feedback on their fashion sketches and their ideas. Yes, we have the wealth of the research collections to draw on to find material. Yes, we have the picture collection, which has decade’s worth of images. But all libraries have fashion resources somewhere in the collection.

There’s the stack of Vogue and Cosmo magazines in the back, waiting to be discarded or claimed. There’s the book on costumes that get used once a year for school projects. You could even set aside the damaged drawing books or begin to cut up some of the knitting books that have the best styles of the 1970’s that you’ve just withdrawn. Art textbooks usual have some high quality prints in them, and if someone’s already started cutting images out, then you can too!

Your teens probably know how to use Google Image search, but this wouldn’t be a bad time to demonstrate it. You can also use newspaper databases to search for fashion, especially designer names, and see what pops up. Art auction records, museum websites, and even IMDB could serve as starting points for inspiration.

Somewhere in your community, there’s probably someone who loves fashion. You can check with a nearby college and find out if there is an art, design, fashion, or textile person who might be willing to come and talk about the history of clothing, design, and more. If the professor is unable or unwilling, you could try getting one of their students to work with you. There’s probably a photographer or two in town, and they might have experience working with clothes and models and be able to provide advice.

You can display the sketches or color boards in your library’s teen center or in the front display case. Use all the images you’ve saved and cut to make a collage outfit for an event. People can stop by and vote on their favorite styles in a Project Library competition. Some of your industrious users may even go so far as to manufacture an actual garment or create the perfect accessory for the look.

Fashion makes the library a cool place, gets teens involved with all sorts of library collections and resources, encourages literacy skills, and allows everyone find their inner Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenburg, or Tom Ford. In the words of Tim Gunn, we can “make it work.”

About Chris Shoemaker

I'm a YALSA Past President. I blog about YA programming, technology instruction for people interested in teen services, and YALSA governance stuff. I like baking and dislike humidity.
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