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Leeds Arts University

Library of the Week: 8th January : Leeds Arts University! We are so happy to share our first guest post of 2024, written by Laura Wood (Subject Library Assistant) at Leeds Arts University Library. Find out more about the history of the University, the library and their incredible collections, exhibitions and so much more. Thank you to all at Leeds Arts University Library for taking part!

Leeds Arts University has roots dating back to 1846 and the original Leeds School of Art. Granted full university status in 2017, our name became Leeds Arts University, making us the only specialist arts university in the north of England. Across a range of postgraduate, undergraduate and further education courses, the entire University is dedicated to the study of creative subjects, from Fine Art to Worldbuilding and Creature Design.

LAU Blenheim Walk Building (Night) – Simon Miles Photography

The University, and the library, is split across two sites, Blenheim Walk, and the historic Vernon Street building, which has been home to the college since 1903. Over the years, the library has developed a specialist collection of books, journals, magazines and other resources to support our students, staff and visitors in all aspects of creative practice and art and design education.

2024 is set to be an exciting year for the University, as the undergraduate course portfolio expands to include Acting for Screen, Music Production, Games Art and Games Design, and in the library, we’re working to expand our holdings in these areas.

Equality, diversity and inclusion are also priorities in collection development, as in all other areas of the library service. In 2022, we embarked upon the Diversify Our Library project, as one active and necessary step towards diversifying our collections based on suggestions from across our University community. Displays and themed reading lists are also an opportunity for us to celebrate and amplify underrepresented voices throughout the year, with Black History, Women’s History and LGBTQIA+ lists (among others), all with an added focus on artists and designers.

LAU Blenheim Walk Library – Jonny Walton

In addition to our lending collection, the library is home to a varied and vibrant special collection, as well as the University archive. Totalling around 2,000 items, our special collection is divided into three broad categories: illustrative books, photobooks and artists’ books.

Illustrative books form the youngest, but also the fastest growing of our special collections. We define illustrative books as publications whose form and meaning hangs on the illustrated or graphic content. This includes rare and abstract comic books and graphic novels, zines, picturebooks and other illustrated texts.

The photobook collection comprises a great number of signed, limited edition and innovative photography books, representing such artists as Corrine Day, Cristina de Middel, Stephen Gill, Daido Moriyama, Martin Parr, Viviane Sassen, and many more, including a large number of works in the Chinese and Japanese traditions.

In our artists’ books collection, you will find all manner of artists’ publications, book arts, book objects and other printed matter. These books are often works of art in their own right which challenge the very notion of what a book is or can be through their content, context and form. Some special sub-collections sit within this category, including The Les Coleman Bequest of Publications and Printed Matter, a collection of artists’ books, publications and ephemera, bequeathed to the library by the family of the artist, author and aphorist Les Coleman in 2013. This special sub-collection includes over 30 publications authored or with contributions by Coleman, and approximately 150 items he collected over the years at the annual small publishers’ fair in London.

We also hold the Tauba Auerbach Collection, which brings together 22 of the American visual artist’s most mesmerising book works. [2,3], an oversized pop-up book, is one such item. Part book-work, part sculpture, each ‘page’ of [2,3] opens into an intricate and beautifully constructed object.

Alongside work from established artists like Auerbach, Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, Richard Long and Ed Ruscha, the collection also showcases the excellent artistic output of Leeds Arts University alumni.

The library also encourages collaboration with university staff and students to co-curate and create exhibitions that can respond to the collections and take place within the library space. The library sits within the Curation and Library Services department, and we love to see the use of our collections in wider University exhibitions.

Rosie Vohra Fruiting Bodies artist book installation view – Leeds Arts University

Our most recent exhibition, Fruiting Bodies by Rosie Vohra, presents three books bound in the outline of the artists’ body. The library’s special collections were used in the development of this commission and Vohra selected key titles to display alongside her own artist book. Read more about Fruiting Bodies and other exhibitions on the University website.

Our collections can be browsed through Leeds Arts University Library Search, or through Library Hub Discover.

You can also follow @laulibrarydept on Instagram to keep up with the latest news and information from Leeds Arts University library.

Laura Wood – Subject Library Assistant

You can explore the library’s collections on Discover and find further contact details on their Discover information page.

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