It happened while we were devouring a box of windmill cookies. We were a good-sized pack of students from the Center for Cartoon Studies, standing in the back room of the new Schulz Library. Some of us were waiting for the water to boil for our Swiss Miss hot chocolate packets (pulled, like the cookies, from a tea-trolley kept in the library’s new digs). Others were chatting about the Visiting Artist lecture we had just enjoyed (in the brand new classroom, just next door). I was leafing through the books featured on the “Second-Year Advisors” wall (where books from the almost 20 comics-professionals who are paired with students in the final year of our program are proudly displayed).
Right about then, CCS-co-founder Michelle Ollie came in, snagged a cookie, and expressed her delight that we had filtered into the library after class and started an impromptu tea-party. This, she said, was what she had always dreamed of. And that’s when it hit me…The power of a place like the Schulz Library, and the success that this new space really achieves, is that it can function as much like a community center as an archive of books.
When I was a little kid, the local library was the gathering place for creative minds. I’m a country bumpkin, so the library I grew up in was literally a single room, divided into children’s and adult’s sections by a grand, new-deal-era checkout counter. This was the place where I first discovered Tintin, where I learned the about the genres of mystery, science-fiction, and fantasy, where I read back-issues of Highlights magazine (which was filled with comics) and where I made friends with other kids who did the same. To foster its young community, the library organized staged readings by local actors, threw Halloween Parties, and hosted pot-lucks.
The library is where I grew up. It’s where I learned to love beautiful books that I could hold, read, and talk about. It’s where I realized that I, too, could create stories. And most of all, it’s where I learned that creativity can be a social activity, enriching a community, or a circle of friends.
These things, in turn, have made me love comics. The cartoonists who study at CCS come from very different backgrounds—superheroes, literary academics, scientific illustration, journalism, even theatre and performance art. But we all share these same three passions: books, storytelling, and creative exchange.
Today, the new Schulz Library is cultivating the same environment that made at least this cartoonist love these things as a little kid. With a children’s reading room, weekend community events, red leather reading-chairs, and (sometimes) a smooth jazz playlist playing in the background, this library is certainly much much more than a collection of books (although the collection of books is inspiring). It is a space for play, discussion, and snacks. It is a space for community…a community that makes stories together.
–Sasha Steinberg, guest writer.