Three Southwest Arkansas libraries will be featured in an upcoming book and traveling exhibit promoting small libraries across Arkansas and the people who rely on them.
The Horatio Garner Memorial Library in Sevier County, The Stamps Public Library in Lafayette County and the Tollette Public Library in Howard County will all be featured in "Remote Access," a collaboration between Arkansas photographers Don House and Sabine Schmidt.
"Remote Access" is the second collaboration between Schmidt and House. Born of a love of libraries and the role they play in communities, the photographers have chosen to focus on 25 of the smaller buildings among the 235 public libraries in Arkansas. In conjunction with Dr. Robert Brady Cochran II, of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, the collection of photographs will be published in a book and also be a traveling exhibition.
"All public libraries serve similar roles in their communities that go far beyond providing reading material. Those roles and services often don't end up in mission statements, but they are critical in the lives of the patrons," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the project stems from living between the Fayetteville, Arkansas library and also the tiny St. Paul, Arkansas, library, which is housed inside a FEMA trailer.
"We use both libraries but found we kept returning to the tiny rural library in a FEMA trailer. We try to use it to keep its circulation numbers up," she said. "Small libraries, in particular offer a safe, warm space with critical internet access, a research center, a home away from home. Often the librarian acts as researcher, grant writer, vocational counselor, cook, family relationship coach, child welfare monitor, community organizer, tutor, visitor information officer, living bulletin board, a friendly face, and a patient listener," Schmidt said.
The photographers will be at the Stamps Library on Tuesday. They will be at the Tollette Library on Thursday and Horatio from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, December 7th
All library patrons are encouraged to drop in the library at that time and have their photo taken as part of the project.
Schmidt, whose work often deals with ideas of place and home, concentrates on the physical communitythe architecture, buildings, streets, businesses, schools, churches, and of course the library itself.
'There is obvious beauty in the buildings and facilities of large urban libraries, and that has been documented in several collections of photographs over the years, but I find great beauty in the small rural library that has to make do with limited resources. Sometimes the library is housed in a building that was never intended for the purpose. Space restrictions can seem daunting. Often the library relies heavily on volunteers, with a librarian only funded with a part-time salary. The beauty that comes from labors of love is exactly what drives so many smaller libraries. It is tangible, palpable, and photographable," she said.
House is foremost a portrait photographer, and his interest is in the people who come to the library to use the space and the services. He will set up his backdrop and lights and photograph anyone who uses the library (and is willing) during normal business hours.
As a thank you for their participation, all library patrons photographed will receive a complimentary silver-gelatin print of their photograph.
For more information about the project and the photographers, go to: www.schmidtandhouse.com or call 479-643-4074.