Episode One:  obsessions + inceptions: The first of three installments of the meaty interview.

by Rachel Shine


Nell Taylor is the founding captain of the three-year-old Chicago Underground Library that just moved into the Congress Theater building at 2129 N Rockwell. The C.U.L. houses any work ever printed in or about Chicago, as long as it was produced independently.  As a sort of headquarters for the broad Chicago independent scene, it seeks to facilitate and support multi-disciplinary collaboration by offering the community an uncensored collection of books, magazines, broadsheets, journals, zines, newspapers and art books, with a look to audio and other media in the future.

Stephanie Acosta is the first mate of the Chicago Underground Library and a co-founding member of the Anatomy Collective, a Chicago-based performance collective that focuses on experimental theater by incorporating dance, live music and, among other things, interactive text into their works.

Okay, let’s start small and go big. What’s your favorite word?

Nell:  My favorite word for the week, and I don’t necessarily always have them, but I’ve really been obsessed with philobat and ocnophil.

Stephanie:  I’m going to be a lot less intellectual about this.  A word that I picked up off The Soup this week: the vajapocalypse.  It’s what happens when they start talking about the vagina on The View. [laughs] It’s pretty terrible.

Nell, you must define.

Nell:  Originally I read them as being defined as fancy terms for claustropobes and agoraphobes.  But when I actually went and looked them up, it sounded like the definition was more close to somebody who liked to do dangerous things-on-the-edge on their own.  So I’m not really sure what that has to do with being a claustrophobe or an agoraphobe.  But I really like the way that they sound.  And so they’ve been stuck in my head all week and I cannot stop thinking about the word philobat and ocnophil.  I really can’t.  [laughter all around]  No, I really can’t.

At your opening you supplied cards asking visitors for descriptions of their ideal library.  What was your favorite response, Nell?

Nell:  Those were left over from a project that we’d done at the NFO EXPO at VersionFest a couple of years ago.  So we’ve had those for a little while and I just kinda put them out for people to see.  And they’re also on our website now, too, because I just think they’re all fantastic.  My favorite one, I think, is just a drawing of a small rectangular building and then it’s got, what do you call it, it’s got like a helicopter attachment on the top of it, rotors, and it just says “Librarycopter.”

And Stephanie, your favorite?

Stephanie:   What was it . . . I liked the – there was one that was just, like, piles of clouds which I thought was…

Nell:  There was the fluffy white clouds in the magazine rack.

Stephanie: Yeah, I liked that; I liked that one a lot.  Yeah, I think that would work for me.  Between Dwell, National Geographic, you know, and maybe a little Nylon in for guilty pleasure, I think I’d be sort of sorted.

Speaking of sorted, what’s your favorite way to organize?

Nell:  Well, I may get put away after my answer, but all of my cd’s at home are organized alphabetically by artist and then within that by what year each album came out in ascending order.  All of my books are organized by height in descending order, because I don’t like to look at a messy bookshelf even though the rest of my house is complete chaos.  And then I have big architecture books somewhere else because they’re just huge and all about architecture, but otherwise I don’t have anything by subject.  And then at the library, which is also complete chaos until we get our new shelving, everything is organized by theoretical tagging, so we have every single author, every single illustrator, photographer, who ever contributed to it in any way tagged- every subject, every publisher, year, everything about it is gone through by a librarian, and they pull out all those things such as: is it fiction? is it nonfiction? is it about patriotism? -stuff that people couldn’t necessarily get from just doing a term search of the book itself.  So it’s a little bit more involved.  So what happens is all that goes into a pool online and then you can search for it and you can see how things are related.  So you can click on a person’s name if you see in the catalogue item and then bring up every other thing that person’s worked on, and same with subjects, so you

really start to see the way things are connected.  And in order to manifest those connections physically, all the books are just ordered pretty much in the order in which they were received.  I didn’t even want to separate them by different formats at first because I really like the idea of them all being completely interconnected, but now they are broken down into Magazine, Book, Journal, Newspaper, Zine and other just purely for shelving reasons, because otherwise they’d all just need, you know, each one of them has their own sort of sitting needs as far as how you put it physically.  So that was the one concession I made to order.  But otherwise it’s purely the order in which we received it on the shelf so that you can start to see connections physically you might not have noticed before.


posted by Caroline Picard