iSchool Student and Artist Dedicates Herself to Cultivating the Relationship Between the Arts and Information Sciences

“I looked at the way that Winnipeg artists gather and encounter information and found that artists and scientists have more overlap than many people would guess. They both seek out data, create organizational systems for retrieval, and dole out information for their networks to encounter as well.”

Kira Koop
iSchool Student Graduating 2018
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

At the heart of iSchool student Kira Koop’s fascination with the information field is the sheer potential for work which extends beyond the tertiary service level. “When you deal in information,” she says, “you’re working with knowledge and understanding as well, which means that the implications for what you can do in the LIS field are boundless.” It was this interest, coupled with her studies as a photographer and artist, that eventually brought Koop to get her MLIS at San José State University. “When I was young,” says Koop, “I was convinced I would be a starving artist living in a garret.” After completing her bachelor’s in fine arts, Koop began working in the public library field and fell in love with the work. “I started thinking about [librarianship] as a career,” Koop says, “and considering MLIS programs. Several librarians in my building [at Winnipeg Public Library] have graduated from SJSU, so I applied, I got in, and here I am.” 

Fine Arts, FYI
Koop works as a page at the Winnipeg Public Library, performing duties that keep the tiny gears of the library system running smoothly such as shelving, sorting, shipping from branch to branch, and a great many other duties as assigned. Says Koop, “It’s been an educational role for me to play, as it means I get to interact with all of the various departments in the building and I get to ask questions! All of the librarians I’ve encountered through my workplace have been exceptionally welcoming to questions from me (even if they’re about cataloging inconsistencies).” Koop’s studies at the School of Information have aided her in her  current position, which she hopes will evolve into further roles at Winnipeg Public. Classes like Dr. Carol Sawyer’s information management (INFO 204) course have given her skills from which to pull for her future work. “For my final project,” Koop says, “I conducted interviews with people around my city about their best and worst managers and compiled them into a website which Dr. Sawyer later presented in a workshop at the eighth Art of Management and Organization Conference in Slovenia.

As a photographer and artist, that kind of creative path for projects is integral to Koop’s learning experience. The strong relationship between the creative arts and information science is one Koop will always foster in her career. “For my information communities course [at the iSchool],” Koop says, “I looked at the way that Winnipeg artists gather and encounter information and found that artists and scientists have more overlap than many people would guess. They both seek out data, create organizational systems for retrieval, and dole out information for their networks to encounter as well.” Koop believes that because of these commonalities there’s a huge potential for LIS and art to interact and collaborate. “Look at the introduction of the A into STEM education to create STEAM,” Koop says. “There are ways to integrate different disciplines to bring a stronger outcome to both.”

Two Worlds Together
In addition to her work at the Winnipeg Public Library, Koop also works as a photographer for the STEAM Initiative at the University of Manitoba. This role has helped her bring together the library science and art worlds. “In the fine arts setting,” Koop says, “things that I have learned about user experience and web design [at SJSU] influence my decisions about marketing and presentation and the advice I give to other people.” On the other side, everything Koop does in the tech world has a facet of aesthetics because of her art background. “For example,” she says, “I refuse to make flow charts that don’t have a unified palette. Form may follow function, but form can also inform function just as function influences the shape.” For an example of what she means, check out these functional collections at the Bauhaus.

Koop hopes to bring these two worlds together for library users in her career by championing the fine arts as well as library services. Although she doesn’t have a definitive answer for how library information professionals can do this, she does have many ideas born from her studies. She suggests professionals treat art like it has real value and encourage accessibility to art and useful maker spaces for artists young and old.  Ideally, after she finishes her MLIS in Spring 2018 Koop will continue working for the Winnipeg Public Library as a librarian who can push some of these ideas further. Her “pipe dream” career plans go in a bit of a different direction. Says Koop, “I would love to convince some very wealthy person to fund the creation of a space on the University of Manitoba campus that includes a conservatory, microscopy lab, library, and a making space—an interdisciplinary building that fosters collaboration and innovation in all of the different fields available for study and education, including the arts and sciences.” Koop knows it’s a long shot, but that won’t stop her from pushing forward with her dreams.