One of my most lurked on librarian blogs was run by the very talented Rachel Moani, a Youth Services Associate in Washington state. She posted the most beautiful and breathtaking library displays I had ever seen. Rachel’s library was populated by dinosaurs, massive flying dragons, candy-colored castles big enough to hide in, glittery lightning storms, and twinkling lights. I was totally enamored by the library atmosphere she created and could only imagine how captivated her child and teen patrons must be.
One day, that website disappeared, and I spent a while searching for where her work was now displayed. I found a Pinterest page, thankfully, but I set to work trying to actually find and contact Rachel. Through the magic of social media, I tracked her down for an interview. I want all of you to become super Rachel-fan-girls, just like me.
I hope you find Rachel’s work as exciting and important as I do.
Ingrid Abrams: Which came first, the art or the librarianship? How did you come to combine them?
Rachel Moani: Art came first, though during the past five years in libraries I’ve attacked projects and learned skills I never would have thought to acquire if I wasn’t putting up a seasonal book display. I’ve been having a wild and enthusiastic love affair with cardboard thanks to libraries. Before, I’d always been more of a doodler/painter. Working in a children’s section of a library with very neutral décor, adding color and vibrancy where I could made sense to me.
IA: What was the most complicated display you ever pulled off?
RM: I like a challenge, so most of them push my limits in some way, but if I had to choose I’d say my stegosaurus, I think. It’s in six parts, all together she’s 35 feet long and 15 feet high. Hanging each piece individually while making it look like it’s hung as one piece was a challenge. I looked up a picture of a little balsa wood stegosaurus toy model and blew it up x1bazillion. Mathematical. Though the thing that cracks me up is: I spent all summer perfecting the dinosaur skeleton (for the “Dig into Reading!” theme) and then Banned Books week totally surprised me. So I whipped up a little banned books display in a few rushed, distracted hours – and that was the one that hit it big. Practically no one noticed the dino- Lolz!
IA: How in the WORLD did you get that dragon to hang from the ceiling?
RM: I’m pretty lucky to have a really supportive Lacey City staff, they put in a set of pulleys for me, so I can lift my crafts into our vaulted library ceiling. Figuring out dimensions/weight/material quantity is a fun way to brush up on all that high school math I never thought I’d use.
IA: What kinds of reactions do staff and patrons have to your displays?
RM: My castle right now is really fun, because kids can tug and touch and pull on it. I’m surprised by how long it’s lasted, and that it seems to be dying so gracefully. I thought it would go in a blaze of ripped up glory after a month or two, but it’s been up almost a year! I am obsessed with Yayoi Kusama, the greatest polka dot artist of our time, and I wanted to make something inspired by her installations. So every time kids come to the library, they put one sticker on the castle. My regular patrons, even the babies, now automatically come to the desk to choose their sticker. Which means I get a patron interaction with every visit, even with the ones who have always been too shy to talk with me. Just look at some of the adorable things they write on them!
IA: Tell me about your favorite display.
RM: Oh, I loved my ‘Dream Big’ chapter book display. But it was all glitter, twinkle lights, and fairy tales, so no surprise there.
IA: What advice do you have for non-artsy, non-craftily talented librarians who strive create stunning displays like yours?
RM: I get so many great ideas from other creative people out there, and I love helping a fellow book displayer out! I know Pinterest isn’t an ideal place to comment and get responses, but I do try to always respond if someone has a specific craft question. Craft! Have Fun! Take suggestions from the children at your library! Be bold!
There are so many librarians I admire and aspire to be like, and Rachel is definitely one of them. It was such an honor to get to talk to her. If there’s a library in heaven, it looks like this. Click here to check out her gorgeous Pinterest page.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid
PS: Rachel keeps a visual diary, and she was kind enough to share this with me: