For our latest Library Profile installment, we spoke with Luke Leither, Head of the Fine Arts & Architecture Library at University of Utah, to learn about the importance of on-site resources for students to learn about interdisciplinary design.
Name: Luke Leither
Title: Head of Fine Arts & Architecture Library
How did the materials library at Utah come to be?
MCX Utah was made possible through steady support from our faculty colleagues in the University of Utah’s School of Architecture, combined with a generous donation from the Zeke and Katherine W. Dumke family here in Salt Lake City. Additionally, the J. Willard Marriott Library has been working toward implementing a new vision for what a research library should look like. New priorities include supporting and partnering with students, staff, and faculty in their interdisciplinary research and productivity, with an emphasis on arts and design, multimedia production, 3D and prototyping technologies, multimodal communication, and experiential learning. A partnership with MCX seemed a natural way to help implement this vision.
Why do you believe the library is a valuable resource to teach students about materials?
Research university libraries, including our own, have begun to redesign their buildings and restructure their organizations to foster holistic scholarly experiences. We seek to provide spaces, collections, and tools that support conversations and collaborations throughout the research cycle. Librarians now teach and model critical thinking, information literacy, visual communication, and hands-on experiences, all essential for lifelong, transdisciplinary learning. A materials collection that focuses on innovation and sustainability exposes our students to critical resources in their field, while simultaneously opening the opportunity to engage in conversations, enriching the learning experience.
Describe your job in 3 sentences or less.
My job is essentially to provide resources and support for students and faculty interested in art and design. I do this by teaching, participating in the academic life of the university, and purchasing resources for the library.
What is your favorite material and why?
In general, my favorite materials are those that have an interesting story, as well as components that lend themselves to teaching moments. For example the material FAIR Cashmere (MC# 7541-01) opens the door to discussing the Cradle to Cradle certification, the Gobi Revival Fund, the fabric cultivation process, and the relationship between fine goods and sustainable practices.
What are you most excited about for the coming year in the world of materials and the MCX library at Utah?
The most exciting aspect of the “world of materials” is how quickly innovation is currently happening. This is true in high visibility areas like electronics, but also equally true with materials like paper and fabrics. I look forward to seeing what comes next and then having the opportunity to share the innovations with our students and faculty here at the University of Utah.