UTC’s Library Whiteboard Illustrations, and the Librarian Behind Them

By Cassandra Castillo, Assistant Features Editor—

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga library is home to many invaluable student resources, but perhaps the most eye-catching fixture is the whiteboard on which Day Circulation Supervisor Stacy Chapman regularly prepares humorous yet informative illustrations.

Sharing news and current events could seem repetitive or dreary to some, but Chapman has found a fun way to get her points across at one of the most visited locales on campus.

Originally, the whiteboard illustrations were used to let library visitors know that the smaller whiteboards were there for everyone to use, but positive reactions from students inspired her to create even more of these drawings. She has seen a great improvement in them these past five years, leaving hands out of the picture.

“Since I sit at the desk all day, I could see people smiling at the pun or taking a quick picture with their phone as they walked by, so I kept doing it,” Chapman said. “The boards started out as cartoon-y and dad-jokey, but they’ve evolved into slightly more sophisticated humor and more likely to be based off of current events, TV shows or movies that everyone is watching.”

Before her time on UTC’s campus, she attended a different college on an art scholarship, but later decided to come to Chattanooga in 1992 to study French. After leaving her previous school, Chapman’s regular drawing and painting came to a complete stop. After some convincing from her sister, she decided to work in the UTC library and has now been there for five years.

“Unless you count doodling on napkins at Happy Hour, I pretty much quit drawing and painting completely after that,” Chapman said. “The whiteboards at the library brought me back to it in the weirdest way.”

Libraries are often portrayed as quiet places, run by cold, bitter librarians, designed for people to study and get work done. This is not the case for UTC’s library; Chapman describes it as a bastion of democracy and social progress. But it is also an area where students can hang out with their friends or eat their Mo’s burritos between classes.

“I also find that many people think of libraries as stuffy places where you will get shushed for blinking too loud, but libraries are totally not like that,” Chapman said. “They were some of the first organizations to open their arms to the internet and new technology. They’ve evolved with the times. They are full of really smart, really funny librarians who are genuinely stoked to help you find a source for that ethics paper.”

After noticing the illustrations, she often notices a smile form on the faces of visitors.

“For students who maybe never stepped foot in a library during high school, the whiteboards are maybe the first thing that starts to change your mind about what a library is,” she said. “It’s, at the very least, a visual clue that we aren’t monsters in cute cardigans. 

“There’s something to be said for having a two-out-of-ten day and walking by some bad art of Dwight Schrute to bring you up to a four-out-of-ten day,” Chapman added. 

“I like to study in the library a lot, so when I see these white-boards they are sometimes cool reminders to do something I may have forgotten,” sophomore Matthew Davis said.

When campus shut down in the spring, Chapman decided to take the whiteboard and markers home with her to find some inspiration. However, she soon decided that making jokes during a pandemic was perhaps not the best call. Her twitter page was inactive for a time, but she began posting illustrations again in the fall.

“If you like walking by a new joke on the whiteboard, I urge you to message me on Twitter and give me ideas.” Chapman said. “It is exhausting trying to come up with a new joke or trying to shoehorn a joke into a new board.” 

Find Stacy Chapman on twitter @thecircdesk—or she can also usually be found at the Library’s checkout desk, not far from the whiteboard.

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