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A Half-Century of Creativity: Celebrating 50 Years of the Cornish College of the Arts Library

Cornish College of the Arts is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cornish College of the Arts library – a sanctuary of knowledge and inspiration that has stood at the heart of our artistic community for half a century. 

Three photos of the Cornish College of the Arts library - First photo is of the aisles of book cases, second photo is the front doors of the Cornish College of the Arts Library, third photo is of one of the computer labs with the progressive pride flag in the background.

The library of an arts college is more than just a repository of books; it is a sacred space where ideas intertwine, where the whispers of the past echo in the minds of the present, and where the seeds of future masterpieces are sown. The Cornish College of the Arts Library has long been a beacon for students, faculty, and staff alike; providing a haven for exploration, a refuge for reflection, and an endless source of inspiration.

As we stand on the cusp of this golden milestone, it is fitting to reflect on the profound impact that our library has had on the evolution of artistic expression within the Cornish community. From the humble beginnings of its collection to the vast array of resources it now houses, the library has witnessed the birth of groundbreaking ideas, the honing of artistic skills, and the emergence of new voices that have shaped the landscape of Cornish’s community of artists and creatives.

From the earliest architects of its collection to the current staff who uphold its legacy, we spoke with current and former Library staff members to learn more about what makes the Cornish Library special. So, dear readers, fasten your seatbelts for a journey through time and creativity as we raise our metaphorical glasses to 50 years of artistic enlightenment at the Cornish College of the Arts library

The History of the Cornish Library

1973

Cornish received a $5000 grant from Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations (PONCHO) to build a formal library.

The History of the Cornish Library

1973

Ron McComb created the first Cornish Library in one of the “Harvard Houses”, and became Cornish’s first Library Director.

The History of the Cornish Library

1999

Hollis Near became Cornish’s second Library Director

Drawing by Aaron Bagley (Cornish Alumni, published author, and former Cornish Library Assistant): https://www.aaronbagley.com/

The History of the Cornish Library

1999

Cornish Colleges Library joined the Washington State Library Statewide Database Licensing consortium for discounted subscription to online indexes for periodical/journal literature.

Drawing by Aaron Bagley (Cornish Alumni, published author, and former Cornish Library Assistant)

The History of the Cornish Library

2000

Cornish received a $10,000 grant from the Allen Foundation to expand music CD collection. The CD collection and equipment were moved to one of the “Harvard Houses” near Kerry Hall, and a new listening center to support Music and Dance was opened.

The History of the Cornish Library

2003

The Cornish Library was moved to Lenora Ave., increasing the overall space from about 2000 sq.ft. to 7000 sq.ft. All new earthquake rated shelving were installed, and new instruction and media labs were created, as well as new facilities for the image collection, and increased computer stations.

The History of the Cornish Library

2011

The online catalog was moved to the new Koha platform, which is still in use today. Slide collection records were added to the Artstor online library of digital images, and access to the entire Artstor collection became available for students. Also, online research guides were introduced for courses and specific topics, using the LibGuides platform.

The History of the Cornish Library

2013 - 2015

Cornish College of the Arts reallocated the budget to the library to help build up the library collection and database resources, as well as expand the reference and instruction programs.

The History of the Cornish Library

2016

The Cornish Library developed four-year student learning outcomes for information literacy instruction.

The History of the Cornish Library

2020

Bridget Nowlin became the third Library Director.

The History of the Cornish Library

2022

The Cornish Library's collection increased from 13,850 items in 1999 to 51,780 items as of May, 2022

The History of the Cornish Library

2024

Cornish College of the Arts celebrates 50 years of the Cornish Library!

1973

1973

1999

1999

2000

2003

2011

2013 - 2015

2016

2020

2022

2024

Exploring the Pages: A Conversation with Bridget Nowlin, Library Director at Cornish College of the Arts

Q: Please introduce yourself:

A: My name is Bridget Nowlin. I am the Director of Library Services and have worked at the Cornish Library for 21 years, having worked up from a part-time position to now being the Director. I came to Cornish having worked with the Dance department on an exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery. Cornish was one of our partners and when the NEA grant ended, I found a part-time job in the Cornish library for what I thought would be a temporary job. I have also taught in Art and Design history classes, both here at Cornish and at Photographic Center Northwest. I am also the Curator of Collections for the Monsen-Grainger private art collection where I have been working with the family for 22 years. 

Q: What resources offered at the library do students utilize the most?

A: Books! Close to 2,000 were checked out in 2022.

Q: What resources offered at the library do you wish students would utilize more? And why?

A: Magazines! So they would be more exposed to the most up-to-date discussions, ideas, and more from their professional peers

Q: How do you foresee the library changing in the next 2-5 years? 5-10 years?

A: I foresee offering more streaming resources, especially film, and even more instruction as we grow as a college and as factors such as AI become more dominant in Academia. Not surprisingly, I do not see physical books going away as they continue to be very important and popular with our patrons. Also, I see the library needing to expand as it continues to be a popular 3rd space for students, faculty and staff – a place to focus and get work done; a place to find solace and quiet; a place where staff are at the ready to help.

Q: If you had to pick only one thing, what is your favorite thing about the Cornish library?

A: The interactions I get to have with the patrons – students, faculty and staff 

Q: What is your favorite medium of art? And why?

A: Photography – this is the medium that I personally work in. I work in 2 ¼ film, cyanotype, digital and more. I also work as the Collections Manager for the Monsen Collection, a collection well known for its photography works. When I can, I teach the History of Photography as well. Also, print – I love the textures of the papers, and the quality of the different styles of prints. They are just beautiful.

What’s your favorite thing about the Cornish Library?

“My favorite thing about the Cornish library is the people. Staff, students, faculty, and community members all make the space so engaging and a great place to work, study, socialize, or take a nap!”

– Renee Bedard, Access Services Librarian

My favorite thing about the Cornish Library is how many spaces it has for people to do work or  It has the Study Room, the AV Room, the Computer Lab, the tables on the Mezzanine, the tables by the movies, the table near the Xerox machine, and the computers by the circulation desk. It’s really really nice.”

– Danny Keenan, Library Assistant

“An especially fond memory is the pleasure of sitting in my office, or at the reference desk, and looking up to see a smiling student, faculty, or staff member who just dropped by for a visit.  It always warmed me to know that the library touched lives and made people want to connect with each other.”

– Hollis Near, Director of Library Services Emerita, 1999-2020

As we bring our celebration of the Cornish College of the Arts library’s 50th anniversary to a close, it’s with a profound sense of gratitude for the immeasurable contributions this sacred space has made to our artistic community. The library stands as a living archive of dreams realized, ideas cultivated, and passions ignited. As we look to the future, let us carry forward the torch of inspiration lit by the visionaries who founded this institution, ensuring that the next 50 years are equally, if not more, vibrant and transformative.

To learn more about the library, including the resources they offer, click here – to stay up-to-date with the Cornish Library follow them on Instagram @cornishlibrarians

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