Integrating the arts across the curriculum can add excitement and drama to academic disciplines. A history class studying the Roman Empire must study the unprecedented achievements of art, architecture, and engineering of Rome in order to fully understand its significance in history. A math or science class can study the seven wonders of the ancient world and attempt to recreate the mathematical and engineering accomplishments of civilizations long past. The artwork of the Dark Ages perfectly captures a flat and desperate mood that any sociology, psychology, or history class can examine from various angles. Integrating the arts into the curriculum enhances student motivation, engagement, and learning and thus increases academic achievement (National Center for Technology Innovation and Center for Implementing Technology in Education, 2009).
By integrating technology and art into the curriculum instructors can give students a creative outlet for projects, teach practical arts-based technologies, teach creative problem solving skills, and create a vibrant and beautiful learning experience (Roblyer, 2006). More college-level instructors are assigning projects that require creative expression, visual punch, collaboration and technology. It is clear that instructors see the value of integrating the arts and technology into their academic teaching. Some academic libraries have started to respond to these needs and others are beginning to realize them. In fact, some librarians believe that visual multimedia projects have already began to phase out the traditional text-based term paper as a major project and that demand for multimedia equipment and support is high as a result (Mitchell, 2005).
Across the country academic libraries have started supporting multimedia and arts-based projects by creating multimedia labs and services. With the proper equipment, software, and resources students can create arts-infused multimedia projects. While this might look like an expensive venture it can be as small as one or two workstations, a digital camcorder and a digital still camera. As demand grows the workstations and equipment can multiply; in this regard a multimedia lab is very scalable and easy on the budget (Mitchell, 2005).
Several very successful multimedia labs exist that can serve as excellent models for any academic library looking to build a multimedia lab:
University at Albany Interactive Media Center: Circulates media equipment such as digital cameras, video cameras, and voice recorders. Computers and adjunct hardware such as webcams, USB-equipped turn tables, etc. is available. Provides a full instruction program instruction for multimedia software applications. http://library.albany.edu/imc/tutorials_handouts.htm
Northeastern University Digital Media Studio: Provides services, technologies and instructional support for digitizing and remixing various resources, enabling users to create new digital content. http://www.lib.neu.edu/about_us/digital_media/
University of Pennsylvania Vitale Digital Media Lab: Provides training, equipment and knowledgeable staff to assist patrons in working with digital media including video, audio, imaging, and web publishing. http://wic.library.upenn.edu/wicfacilities/lab.html
While multimedia equipment and software are necessary to complete projects that incorporate the arts, libraries also need to provide the “raw materials”. Photographs, digitized works of art, digital music, and digital video are all necessary components for arts-infused projects. Databases such as Artstor and Naxos Music Library can be helpful for integrating the visual and music arts into multimedia projects. Plenty of free art is available online through sites such as American Memory, Perseus Digital Library, and Wikimedia Commons. Librarians can easily create guides for digital repositories and databases of art and music to support the fusion of the arts into the curriculum.
Academic libraries made a commitment to supporting the academic curriculum since the inception of academic libraries. With the growing popularity of multimedia projects, visual learning, and the fusion of the arts in the curriculum, academic libraries need to step up and support these new changes in the curriculum.
Mitchell, G. (2005). Distinctive expertise: Multimedia, the library, and the term paper of the future. Information Technology & Libraries, 24(1), 32-36.
National Center for Technology Innovation and Center for Implementing Technology in Education. (2009). Integrating the arts with technology: Inspiring creativity. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.ldonline.org/article/Integrating_the_Arts_with_Technology:_Inspiring_Creativity
Roblyer, M. D. (2006). Integrating educational technology into teaching (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.