• Artists and designers are an under-researched group of library users. Even less has been written specifically about their need for ‘inspiration’, despite its importance to the creative process. This study examines how misconceptions have shaped the relationship between artists and designers and the library. The research seeks to further understand the concept of inspiration, and explore the potential role that the library could play in the creative process.

    A qualitative, mixed methods approach was taken to suit the subjective, complex nature of the topic. The research begins with a four-stage literature review covering the Library and Information Science (LIS) literature on artists and designers, relevant information behaviour theories, a selective review of creativity in the LIS literature, and a selective overview of various historical, cultural, and psychological perspective on inspiration and creativity. To complement the literature review, six in-depth interviews were conducted with art and design librarians, tutors, and practitioners.

    The resulting variety of perspectives help to shed light on the concept of inspiration and the library’s potential role. The study links the process of finding inspiration with other LIS research into browsing, information encountering, serendipity, and satisficing, highlighting the importance of these theories to understanding the behaviour of artists and designers. Inspiration is better understood by tracing the concept from its mystical origins, examining its changing place in history, philosophy, and psychology. Although this concept is ultimately too subjective for the research to concretely define the role of the library, the nature of the education, resources, organisation, and space in libraries place them in a unique position for facilitating creativity and inspiration.