Origami is arscient, and so is librarianship

To do origami well a person needs to apply both artistic and scientific methods to the process. The same holds true for librarianship.


Arscience is a word I have coined to denote the salient aspects of both art and science. It is a type of thinking — thinquing — that is both intuitive as well as systematic. It exemplifies synthesis — the bringing together of ideas and concepts — and analysis — the division of our world into smaller and smaller parts. Arscience is my personal epistemological method employing a Hegalian dialectic — an internal discussion. It juxtaposes approaches to understanding including art and science, synthesis and analysis, as well as faith and experience. These epistemological methods can be compared and contrasted, used or exploited, applied and debated against many of the things we encounter in our lives. Through this process I believe a fuller understanding of many things can be achieved.



A trivial example is origami. One one hand, origami is very artistic. Observe something in the natural world. Examine its essential parts and take notice of their shape. Acquire a piece of paper. Fold the paper to bring the essential parts together to form a coherent whole. The better your observation skills, the better your command of the medium, the better your origami will be.

On the other hand, you can discover that a square can be inscribed on any plane, and upon a square any number of regular polygons can be further inscribed. All through folding. You can then go about bisecting angles and dividing paper in halves, creating symbols denoting different types of folds, and systematically recording the process so it can be shared with others, ultimately creating a myriad of three-dimensional objects from an essentially two-dimensional thing. Unfold the three-dimensional object to expose its mathematics.

Seemingly conflicting approaches to the same problem results in similar outcomes. Arscience.



The same artistic and scientific processes — an arscient process — can be applied to librarianship. While there are subtle differences between different libraries, they all do essentially the same thing. To some degree they all collect, organize, preserve, and disseminate data, information, and knowledge for the benefit their respective user populations.

To accomplish these goals the librarian can take both an analysis tack as well as a synthesis tack. Interactions with people is more about politics, feelings, wants, and needs. Such things are not logical but emotional. This is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin includes well-structured processes & workflows, usability studies & statistical analysis, systematic analysis & measurable results. In our hyper-dynamic environment, such as the one we are working it, innovation — thinking a bit outside the box — is a necessary ingredient for moving forward. At the same time, it is not all about creativity but it is also about strategically planning for the near, medium, and long term future.

Librarianship requires both. Librarianship is arscient.

Published by

Eric Lease Morgan

Artist- and Librarian-At-Large