SJSU M.L.I.S. Students Tour the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

by Alison Leonard

In April, LISSTEN President Cynthia Orozco, organized a tour of the library at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). There are four FIDM campuses.They are in located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, and San Diego. We toured the L.A. campus which is located in the heart of the new entertainment district and is surrounded by the Fashion, Financial, and Jewelry Districts.
FIDM is a specialized, private college dedicated to educating students for the Fashion, Graphics, Interior Design, and Entertainment industries. There are over 20 majors including: Business Management, Fashion Design, Film & Costume Design, Footwear Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Jewelry Design, and Entertainment Set Design & Decoration.  The FIDM library supports all of  these fields of study and more, and it is the largest specialized fashion library in the western United States.
Our tour was led by Robin Dodge, Special Collections Librarian at FIDM. Robin was a great host; she gave us a very comprehensive tour of the library that includes the Media Room, where students can check out movies by genre—remember, students major in film and costume design; the Conference Room, where they teach information literacy on coursework varying from English Composition to Trend Forecasting; and the Textile Workroom, where they, among other things, conduct burn test on sample fabrics. Fabrics in the Textile Workroom are donated from manufacturers. The Reading Room contains the stacks.  The librarians decided to put circulating material together with reference material as students tend to browse the stacks more than use the catalog. There is also a Media Lounge where students can watch movies or check them out and take them home. The films were probably most inspirational to set and costume designers.
Robin also has an extensive alphabetically-organized Clippings File containing articles taken from newspapers, trade papers and magazines, as well as vintage sewing patterns. While the clippings file is a valuable resource, it is not as actively maintained as it has been in the past because students are now able to access many images and other items online.
Behind the Reference Desk are the most frequently requested items, including something I was most fascinated with: Visionaire, a multi-format fashion and art magazine. It is produced three times a year, and different artists are invited to contribute depending on the theme. For example, one controversial issue was entitled Bible; another issue, World, contained photographs. 
At the end of the tour, Robin invited us to search the materials we wanted to look at. It was hard to know where to start because she had shared so many interesting objects and materials with us. I chose to sit at a table with some fellow M.L.I.S. classmates and look at an issue of Visionaire entitled Scent; we also smelled (yes, smelled!) a collection of about 20 perfume vials with odd names such as, “Cold,” “Sadness,” “Drunk,” and “Success.”  We made an effort to be polite by not opening every vial to smell them all, but some were so compelling. I can tell you “Drunk” smelled like day-old beer in a musty college bar. And, surprisingly, “Cold” really smelled good!
After the tour, Robin encouraged us to to visit FIDM’s “Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” exhibition. I am so glad I did. The show includes work from four of the five Academy Award Costume Design Nominees including “Alice in Wonderland,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Tempest,” and “True Grit.”
Finally, the Library also serves the information needs of non-FIDM students, educators, scholars, researchers, industry, and press.  You may contact the Library at 213-624-1200 ext. 3361 to make an appointment or to request information.

Alison has a background in fundraising with Haiti Democracy Project, Meridian International Center (a contractor for the U.S. Department of State) and WNVC International Public Television. Alison holds an undergraduate degree in history from Virginia Tech, and a Masters in International Transactions from George Mason University, which included study abroad at Oxford in England. She enjoys swimming laps, biking and hiking. She has visited over 90 national parks in the U.S. She has run into bears on the trail but thankfully no mountain lions.

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  1. Peace Sweet Peas

    I never even thought of that kind of school needing/having a library. This is fascinating and would be a fab place to work.

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