"168:01": The Next Chapter Project Update
Thank you for helping us make it to our initial $2500 goal! We are still chugging along towards the $10,000 we need to fully remodel the library (more on our vision for the library space in a future update). As always, we deeply appreciate your efforts to share "168:01 The Next Chapter" with your friends, family, and colleagues who are passionate about art, education, and being direct participants in creating a better world.
If you haven't read it already, we think you will enjoy this artist and project profile by Kickstarter on Wafaa where he shares some reflections on how this project represents an evolution in his approach as an artist.
Volunteer Staff Interviews
In this series of staff interviews, we'll take you deeper inside how 168:01 is manifesting through the work of our volunteer team.
Today we are focusing on Judith Frangos, the 168:01 librarian. Without Judith's help, 168:01 would not hold the promise that it does today. She has been invaluable and generous with giving her time, expertise, and care to 168:01. She is a visionary in regards to creating and setting up a system that will make the library function optimally for the students at the University of Baghdad, something she is deeply passionate about. We are so happy that she followed her calling to volunteer with 168:01 because Judith's contribution is one of the projects luckiest breaks so far.
Interview with Judith Frangos
1) Tell us about yourself.
I am now retired but had two distinct careers. For more than 3 decades, I did public policy work in housing, community development and healthcare for both New York City and New York State government. At one point I worked for the Governor of NYS (at that time, Hugh Carey), and was a Vice-President at the Hospital Association of NYS. I really wanted to switch gears, and had concluded during all my years in politics and government that information is power. I wanted to be able to spread that power as widely as possible, so I did a Master's program in Library Science and spent the final 12 years of my career as a Music Librarian in NYC, and then 5 years in Istanbul building a music library from scratch for a large university, and finally as Electronic Media Arts Librarian at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
2) How did you get involved in this project?
In 2008, when I was still at RPI, Wafaa came to do a short residency at the Arts Department, and I heard a talk by him about his personal history and his work. Although his exhibition was the focus of controversy on campus, I was so struck by his thoughtful and focused talk and the way he handled the contention around his exhibition.
Fast forward to 2016...When Wafaa announced the 168:01 project on Kickstarter, I felt immediately compelled to contact him and offer my library skills to help in whatever way I could. In 1999, I went to Istanbul and built a library of books, scores, and recordings for a wonderful group of students who had never had access to such materials. When I heard about what Wafaa is doing with 168.01 I wanted to be able to help do something similar for art students in Baghdad. The power in those materials is incalculable.
3) What are you currently working on related to this project?
My first task for the project was to develop a wish list of books to comprise a basic arts library, also taking into account requests from faculty at the University of Baghdad. I developed an Excel list from the wishlist I created on Amazon.ca, and gradually acquired books from the list throughout the months the two exhibitions took place in Windsor and Calgary.
I had suggested to Wafaa early in the process that perhaps we could use an open-source integrated library software system to catalog the books and deliver the system on a computer to Baghdad. I researched systems and recommended that we pursue the Koha system, which has achieved widespread use around the world (from its origins in New Zealand) and is multi-lingual, including Arabic.
While the books have made their way to Baghdad over the fall and winter, I worked with Shawn Lawson, and old friend and colleague of Wafaa's at RPI, to install the system on an iMac bought by the project, and through this spring have been cataloging books from information on our Excel lists. It's not the optimum way to catalog---it's best to have the book in hand---but seems to be working. I'm hoping to have 1000 books cataloged by the end of the month. The remainder of the 1600 or so books acquired thus far, will require more intense work to catalog, either because there are not existing records in the Library of Congress catalog to use as the base, or because I don't have enough information about the book.
Thank you to Judith for her thoughtful answers and for all of her hard work on the project.