Shift-Lab Team, “REF”


Shift-lab Team (
Katie Baldwin, Huntsville Alabama (
Denise Bookwalter, Tallahassee, Florida (
Sarah Bryant, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (
Macy Chadwick, Petaluma, California (
Tricia Treacy, Boone, North Carolina (

printing methods include letterpress, risograph, screenprinting, and digital printing
variable sized books housed in a flip top box

Artist Statement

REF is an investigation into the erosion of the physical reference area of the library, and the fundamental shift taking place in the way we ask and answer questions.

Reference sources evolved over hundreds of years to answer specific types of questions that have emerged over time as we have sought to engage with information. Atlases, chronologies, encyclopedias, directories, and other, related reference types each satisfied a particular method of seeking information. Where? When? Who was responsible? What else was happening during this time? How was this accomplished? We have moved away from the use of these resources toward the use of keyword searches. As a result, we are able to access information with great speed, but are losing the aspect of translation that enabled us to seek nuanced answers to carefully posed questions.

For this artist book, a collective of five artists worked together to produce a complete reference section. 15 components, each inspired by a traditional reference type, are housed together in a custom flip top document box. As an organizing principle for the project, artists selected a set of dates related to the shift away from the use of physical reference texts toward our reliance on algorithmic relevance:

1963 The publication of Automation and the Library of Congress (also known as “The King Report”)

1991 The High Performance Computing Act (also known as The Gore Bill) and the advent of the World Wide Web

1993 The publication of Planning Second Generation Automated Library Systems and the release of Mosaic, the first web browser which popularized the World Wide Web

2001 The release of Wikipedia

References to these dates and events can be found in each component, alongside other themes related to mapping, information, and documentation.