Building knowledge in a local library domain

The project ODL fosters creative engagement with digital library collections by means of artistic experiments. The National Libraries of the Netherlands and Austria ran a series of artistic experiments with artists and art students. The project aims for knowledge transfer in the library community in order to build awareness for the relevance of creative engagement with collections and to provide frameworks for designing artistic experiments with partners as well as lessons learned gained from the own activities.
The ÖNB Labs team ran staff education activities of different formats. Find out more in this blog post.


As soon as the artworks of our second artistic experiment, the ONB Labs Web Residency 2022, were released on the ONB Labs Artspace Sophie Hammer and Martin Krickl held a webinar for colleagues of the Austrian National Library’s Digital Library Department. Organizing projects for and with artists in order to open digital collections for creative reuse was a totally new topic for most attendees.
The presentation gave an overview of the project objectives with a strong focus on why cooperations with artists enable library staff to gain new perspectives on the library as an institution and on the way librarians handle library collections.
We prompted the colleagues to the Artspace and asked them for feedback, which we collected on a whiteboard.
The challenge for collecting feedback is to find the right balance between giving directives as facilitator to motivate attendees to contribution by avoiding to give too much information about the artworks that could influence their feedback. The feedback collected also touched the question of usability of the browser based artworks. Having this focus on the usability the feedback slot in the webinar may also be seen as a kind of user testing.

How much usability to users expect from artworks shown in a web browser?

Snippet from a feedback board


At the 1st Austrian Library Congress, which took place in Innsbruck the first week of May 2023, we offered a workshop entitled “Kunst in/aus Bibliotheken” (German for: Art in/from libraries). The workshop was designed to provide a framework for planning, organizing and hosting an Art program at a library no matter what the collections of the library are and what budget is available. Running artistic experiments is a great thing for community building also for small local libraries or OPL (One Person Libraries) may they have digital collections in their portfolio or not.
The framework we presented follows seven stages:

Framework for organizing Art Programs based on the ONB Labs Art Program 2022/2023

In the second part of the workshop we encouraged participants to design their own Art Program. The participants then sketched a rough outline for an artistic experiments addressed at pupils based on materials from a map collection. The team addressed questions such as the definition of the target group, the commitment of the own staff as well as the teachers involved, possible formats for regular exchange as well as the expected outcome of such an educational Art Program.

The design thinking framework may be useful for setting up an Art Program. Take a look at the different toolboxes (e.g. and get inspired!

We are convinced that a quick design sprint is an effective method for shaping an Art Program, if facilitated actively. Without facilitation and a framework attendees might get easily lost.

Discussion forum

The ONB Labs Art Program artworks were presented at the Literature Museum at the beginning of May. The browser based artworks were exhibited at media stations in one room, while we set up a discussion forum in a second room. Placed on a sofa, we invited the artists of our Art Program and one of the advisors, Manuela Naveau, to tell visitors of the exhibition about their artworks, their making, the conceptual ideas behind the artworks and their perspective on library archives.
A discussion forum provides different perspectives though it definitely needs facilitation and good questions to start with.

participants of the ONB Labs Art Program Finissage forum

It’s all about facilitation

The ONB Labs team used different formats for engaging library staff with Art Programs. Each format offers specific advantages for different outcomes. Collecting feedback in the sense of a mini user testing may be especially useful, when their are some open questions on how to display the artworks so that user’s engage with them. Design thinking methods offer a very powerful toolbox for wireframing an Art Program, especially when the way to go is not yet clear. A discussion forum allows for different perspectives and enables the artists to tell about their work in their own voice.
All formats definitely need facilitation.