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Thursday, July 24, 2014

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MoMA, library collaboration first of its kind

Updated 5:48 pm, Monday, March 17, 2014
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Darien Library is committed to bringing what is available at 11 W. 53rd St. to 1441 Post Road through a unique collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art.

The goal, said Stephanie Anderson, head of readers' services at Darien Library, is to identify how a public library can bring all the great attributes of a national museum to a small town.

"Everyone feels comfortable at the library," Anderson said, noting that people may feel intimidated and overwhelmed walking into MoMA.

"It's one thing if you go to (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and you look at a Greek or Egyptian sculpture or statue," Chul Kim, MoMA's associate publisher, said. "Figurative, traditional art is less imposing, less intimidating to people. When they look at an abstract painting, a lot of people don't know what they're looking at or understand all there is to understand."

Kim said that there are times when those who work at MoMA may not even understand the art they are viewing.

The Darien Library is the first to have such a broad collaboration with the museum. It came to fruition after Kim met Anderson at Digital Book World in 2013.

Kim was seeking to promote MoMA's e-books and how libraries, like Darien's, could make them more available. The two brainstormed and the end result was offering multiple MoMA resources to the library patrons.

The library purchased a significant amount of books MoMA published and made iPads that are loaded with MoMA- and art-related apps available.

The library recognized some people may require help digesting modern art, Kim said, and the collaboration with the museum is a step toward providing a greater sense of understanding.

"This collaboration has really helped expose their patrons to books on modern and contemporary art, so we feel great about that," Kim said.

Since the fall, the Darien Library hosted MoMA educators and curators, and has sent groups of patrons for museum tours.

MoMA provides eight passes for library patrons. With the pass, a patron and four guests can visit the museum for free. This resource is also offered to other libraries.

"Darien public library is known across the country as a leader in public libraries," Kim said. "A lot of libraries look to Darien public library for what's going to be happening in public libraries now and in the future."

Anderson said she wanted to encourage patrons to not only learn about art but to also make it and enhance their own creative lives.

The library, as part of the year-long partnership, established an artist-in-residency program with Darien photographer Ben Larrabee, who has work displayed at the MoMA.

Kim said experimental collaboration is something that can be mimicked across the country.

"It's really great because these are resources that we are already putting so much time and effort into and its been rewarding to let a community leader like Darien public library with us," Kim said. "People in their community look to them for activities and how to stay engaged with their patrons.

"(Darien Library) has been absolutely outstanding in their commitment to the program. They really care so much about their patrons."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6538; @Meg_DarienNews