Jessica Speer is a librarian, artist and Relaxing Lady. Her work, including field recordings, puppet shows, collections of items, and zines, touches on questions of ecology, community, history, mortality and archival practices.
Inspired by library projects like the Reanimation Library (Brooklyn) and the Prelinger Library (San Francisco) as well as her experience as Programming Coordinator for the Read/Write Library (Chicago), she began collection development for the Relaxing Lady’s Library after moving to Chicago in 2010. The bulk of the Relaxing Lady’s collection consists of vinyl records and audio cassettes, primarily spoken word, sound effect, and field recordings. Topics in the collection range from guided meditation to poetry to history to bird songs. The more limited print collection includes herbalist and field guides, collections of folk art, and books on science experiments for children.
Speer performs with her husband Peter under the name The Speers, primarily creating live improvisations with their collections of library LPs and modular synthesizers, utilizing live sampling and signal processing to find the hypnotic patterns hidden in ordinary sounds.
Speer currently heads the Youth Services Department at the Highland Park Public Library in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. In 2016, she was awarded the Curiosity Creates grant from ALSC and Disney to create Library Scouts, a program of independent learning. In addition to managerial duties, she has enjoyed leading storytime sessions, developing creative programming ranging from simple bookbinding workshops to hosting a kids knitting club, and devouring picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, young adult novels, and instructional nonfiction books about process art and crafts.