What is “sleevefacing”? Besides, that is, “more fun than one should have at work,” as Susannah Cleveland, head of the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives, describes it, a sleeveface is “one or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their bodies with record sleeve(s), causing an illusion,” according to the creators of the sleeveface.com blog.
With the vast collection of vinyl albums and thus album covers in BGSU’s collection, the possibilities are nearly endless. Library staff, faculty and patrons have all gotten into the act, creating some startling illusions. There’s rocker David Bowie, in line to check out a book, while Tina Turner struts her stuff at the information desk and Kitty Wells enjoys one of the listening carrels.
The hidden agenda behind the fun is raising awareness of the library’s collections, said Cleveland. “It’s good outreach to get people to see what’s in the collection and to think of it in different ways. It gets our users more engaged with us and we’ve gotten to know our patrons a lot better.”
Some of the younger patrons had not actually seen albums before, which presents a learning opportunity, Cleveland added. The albums also provide a chronicle of marketing history and the development of graphic design. “It’s such a treasure trove; this gives us another way to make use of it,” she said.
The sleevefacing idea was brought to BGSU by Liz Tousey, student and circulation supervisor, who has been with the University about a year. “It’s easy and free and a great way to show off our collection,” Tousey said. “People are doing sleevefacing in other places, just not in libraries.”
Tousey posts about three images a week on a blog (http://blogs.bgsu.edu/librarysleevefacing/) and a Facebook page. “We’ve gotten a lot of really positive feedback,” she said. The library has invited others to submit their own. BGSU’s rules require that all images must be taken in libraries and may not be digitally altered.
The albums used are all doubles and designated for the annual record sale. The sleevefacing project has promoted a new way of cataloging that might make ordinary librarians shudder: Tousey has organized them by the color of the performers’ outfits. She now keeps her eye out for people wearing certain patterns and colors. Cleveland said there’s a bonus for finding someone dressed in checks—very hard to come by.
While the staff is not above nabbing patrons for specific covers, they also offer people the chance to choose an album to represent. “It’s taking it to a different level. What you listen to identifies and defines you; this is adding the visual. Some people are more theatrical, some choose an artist who’s antithetical to who they are. When people saw it, they wanted in,” Cleveland said.
One of her favorites for its irony is a sleeveface of comedienne Anna Russell railing against popular music. “It’s quite delightful.”
The public will get to be part of the project during the Arts Extravaganza from 6-10 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Fine Arts Center.
The sleevefacing project has garnered some national attention. It has been featured in the online AL Direct, from the American Library Association (last item), at American Libraries Direct and in the blog for the School Library Journal: School Library Journal