A desk, a chair, and books

From the pages of Prattfolio, this article is part of a series exploring the artistic and professional practice of Pratt faculty through visits to their studios and workspaces. Here, Prattfolio looks inside office of Deirdre Donohue, MSILS ’97, Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Information, New York Public Library Art & Architecture Collection, Midtown, New York.

Eight months into her tenure with the New York Public Library’s Art and Architecture Collection, Deirdre Donohue hadn’t fully settled in to her office. “I haven’t had time to get messy yet,” she said of her space, tucked into a lofty room that opens up like a secret trove behind one of the Schwarzman Building’s Employees Only doors.

She is beginning what she calls her library career’s “third chapter,” following terms at The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the International Center of Photography. As a library science educator, she wants her students to come away from her classes with a sense that “there are a lot of places librarians are needed to make material discoverable that aren’t necessarily libraries.”

1 Donohue, also a practicing artist, keeps a spectrum of books on hand, from reference guides and industry tomes to exhibition catalogs and volumes on art and artists. Her shelves also contain several photobooks, of which she has a substantial personal collection. At Pratt, Donohue teaches Photography Collections, which she says is a growth industry for librarians.

2 “I take the things people abandon,” notes Donohue, whose office is studded with gems such as wood-block missing-book placeholders and this vintage Achilles library-stamp carousel. “They are good technologies, sound technologies,” like many of the art books and artworks whose journey through time and ownership brings them to Donohue’s office on their way to the patrons.

3 “The architectural photos, printouts from NYPL Digital Collections, document two moments from the 16 years spent building this library,” says Donohue, who has been studying the history of the NYPL and its architecture and art collections at home. Part of Donohue’s work will be ushering in a new era in that history, “thinking about intelligent collection development, and relationships with partner institutions.”

4 Above Donohue’s desk hang works by photographer friends including Johan Spanner—who made this portrait of a leader of the New York City Afghan expat community—and a piece by Matthew Monteith (5). “This is my particular darling, because with the cruller reclining on blue fur resembling the Venus of Willendorf, this photograph encompasses my love of art, ancient and contemporary—and edible.”

This article was originally published in Prattfolio (Spring/Summer 2018). Read the issue at www.pratt.edu/alumni.