Book Arts


In September, the Preservation Lab participated in a day-long workshop for 4-H youth in grades 8-12 from minority communities across Iowa.

4-H’ers participating in Ujima. Photo credit: J.P. Chaisson-Cardenas

The day that the kids spent at the ISU library was a part of a 3 day retreat called Ujima and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander). The kids who come to these retreats are African, African American and Asian American. The event was developed by the Culturally Based Youth Leadership Accelerator Program (CYLA).   The purpose of the initiative is to encourage underrepresented and underserved youth to become part of their local 4-H learning communities, drawing upon their cultural strengths, knowledge and narratives.  The library partnered with ISU’s Extension and Outreach in order to be able to reach this audience of 4-H students.

Participants were welcomed at ISU State Gym before breaking up into groups and scattering across campus. Photo courtesy of Extension and Outreach, 4-H, CYLA

The partnership has been of great benefit to the library because the university’s 4-H program provides the infrastructure that is necessary to be able to bring dozens of kids from communities across Iowa to the university campus. They stay at the Clover Woods camp center outside of town, where the majority of their activities take place.

The youth spend the first day of the retreat  on the ISU campus, participating in workshops that are offered by different university departments. This year the library was one of the sites that they could pick from.  ISU’s Extension and Outreach 4-H Office  took care of all the complicated logistics, all we had to do was prepare awesome, memorable workshops and be ready for a day full of exciting high energy interaction with our audience.

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Co-teaching one of the groups at the Preservation lab. Sonya Barron and Emilie Duncan, our Lennox Preservation Intern.

During their day at the library the students participated in 3 different workshops. And yes, we definitely provided plentiful lunch and snacks! Three departments within the Curation Services division created hands-on teaching sessions united by one theme: Telling Your Story. The inspiration for the theme came from observing and acknowledging that minority individuals are extremely underrepresented in professions engaged with cultural heritage. Most often, minority communities have their stories told by people who are not a part of that community and may not understand their experiences or have a similar perspective on their history. In our workshops we wanted to champion the idea that the students had a part to play in telling their story and the stories of their family and community.

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Rosie Rowe, AV Preservation Specialist, explaining how to use an iPad to record a storyteller’s voice

Our AV Preservation Specialist, Rosie Rowe, taught the students how to record each other’s voices on an iPad app, StoryCorps-style. Most of the kids were willing to share a story about themselves and their families. In some cases English language skills presented a barrier. Most of the young people in this group had spent a significant amount of time in refugee camps and had been through difficult traumatic events. Their stories were powerful. At the end the day the students got to take their recorded story home on a USB jump drive.

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Practicing detective skills: looking at original documents from special collections.

At Special Collections and University Archives they worked on piecing together a real life story by examining  original documents from the library’s rare collections. Each person in the group only had information about one part of the story. How these fragments fit together was revealed only at the end of the session, when everyone shared what they discovered.

5 pamphlets sewn into a 10pt wrapper

Different colors for sewing

At the Preservation lab the participants got to try their hand at making their very own memory book/scrapbook. They selected colors of thread to sew a simple non-adhesive structure using attractive archival-quality materials. For all of them, this was the first time they had made a book. Although there was some frustration involved, there was a lot more enjoyment and pride of accomplishment.

This student said that he surprised himself. He didn’t know he could make a book.

This student was very proud of her finished product

I think that exploring the behind-the-scenes parts of the library was eye-opening for many of the youth. The conventional image of a librarian is a person sitting at a desk with a computer, helping people find books. The students were surprised that librarians could also be teachers, history detectives, recorders of others’ voices and could work with old books and historical documents.

On a personal level, I also made some discoveries:

  1. I got a glimpse into the depth of experience that the students possessed because they were willing to share their stories. I felt lucky to be there and was filled with respect for them.
  2. Phew, teaching is hard! I take my hat off to all good teachers out there. We really need to show our children’s teachers that we value their work. How about a bigger salary to start with?
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You never know what you are going to get. As an artist myself I can appreciate art books and books with unique characteristics but let me tell you that when they enter the lab we usually groan. These books are often neat and unique and creative but more often than not they just don’t hold up well. Take for instance the most recent one to enter the lab – and funny, check out the title.

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This book looked fine on the outside but when we opened it we realized the cover of this book had separated itself from the text block. A fairly easy fix by our technician and she also constructed a box for it to give it some protection since this item will be in our general collection and may get used a fair amount.

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Curious if you see items like this in your repair work and how you feel about them.

 

 

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June 28-30, 2016 Iowa State University hosted the Iowa 4-H Youth conference titled “Dive to the Depths”. Students grades 8-12 from all over Iowa converged on the ISU campus to participate in group activities and workshops. Every year  almost 1000 kids attend! The workshops introduce the students to new professional environments and careers.  They also give participants an opportunity to develop practical life skills that they will use throughout their lives.

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I taught three  workshops about books at the Parks Library preservation lab. At the start of each workshop I did a short presentation about the history of books, into which I crammed as many interesting images as I could find. Then we made a fold-up book and sewed a pamphlet out of multi-colored papers. Most of the participants already had extensive sewing experience. Many had made a quilt or an outfit before, so it took them all of 3 minutes to sew a simple pamphlet! Oops, I will have to step it up with the difficulty level next year!

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At the end of the session I showed the 4-H-ers some conservation projects that I was working on. Many of them were really curious about the chemistry of the materials that they saw – both the artifacts and the conservation supplies. They answered my questions readily and were not too shy to ask their own, which I appreciated.

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Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

A couple of months ago I hosted a tour for a College of Design class, which focused on binding and printing  design in the context of current publishing practices. Preparing for this tour prompted our technician Mindy and myself to seek out contemporary binding structures from our general collections that present preservation challenges for library professionals.

Most of these items ended up being art books. Because of innovations in the realm of  publishing, many coffee table books now feature all kinds of fancy bells and whistles, going for a unique look with an element of surprise. There is a tendency to deconstruct the traditional book form.  What that means for us here in the Preservation Department is: ENCLOSURES! These unconventional bindings and textblocks require an extra level of protection for a variety of reasons. Dear reader, behold the art book medley!

Colibri Jackets – why do we need them?
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1. The spine of a book needs all the protection it can get.
2. Fabrics and 3D elements can rub against other books on the shelf.
3. Loosely associated items: a sticky note serves as a title label.
4. Exposed board edges will delaminate extra quickly.

Boxes and pockets

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1. Some binding structures are inherently vulnerable to handling. A 4-flap made from a lightweight board, also called a tux box, will do just fine for this delicate binding.
2. & 3.  Security is important: enclosures can help keep small desirable items from walking off the shelf.
4. The artist print that comes included with this monograph is larger than the book.
This sturdy 4-flap, called a phase box, had to be retrofitted with a spacer to keep the two items from shifting around inside.

And sometimes…
Books come to us with their own boxes, and they need a little help. Here are three examples of that, clockwise from left to right:

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  1. A collection of vintage recipes in its original box packaging. The lid of the box got ripped off. It was later hinged back on with a strip of matching book cloth.
  2. Inside the Tide box there is a soft cover paperback book. The box was not as secure as we would have liked. In addition, the ingenious colorful box  presents a real temptation for a library user to take it home. So the book got an additional clamshell box (a nice boring gray).
  3. The multiple small books contained in the tan cloth box are all identified by the same bar code, pasted onto the side of the box. There are no volume numbers present. So, each individual book within the box got its own label, even though they all say the same thing. This way the books can be better tracked if one of them gets lost.

“Oh, what a beautiful book,” we thought when this General Collections item was given to us to work on. Oh wait! It’s not a book – it’s a box! Our excitement quickly turned into…despair? Those darn artists and publishers; don’t they think about how libraries are going to handle items like this? That’s a common thought around here – I am sure many of you have thought the same at some point.

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This item fooled us in more ways than one. Not only did we think that this item was a book, but based on the condition we thought that this was a new item as well. We soon learned that this item was actually from 1967!

Now, while the outside of the box looked to be in great shape for its age, the inside pieces were another story. While at first glance the 4 inner portfolios don’t seem to be in terrible condition, upon looking closer it was evident that there was in fact some damage. Due to the type of tape used, the adhesive has seeped through and stained the paper, failed entirely, or a combination of those on the various parts in this item. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do to correct this other than reattaching the detached items.  

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Have you seen items with similar inherent vice? Do you think the creator intended them to last longer than they did? Or maybe they were meant to have a short lifespan?

Every year in July, I try to take items to show at the Open Class at the Boone County Fair, and sometimes I’ve taken things I’ve made at work.  This year, I had four entries for the miscellaneous class: an icicle-stitch cord-bound book,  a post-bound guest book, a tool box for my specialty tools, and a bow made from book pages.

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My icicle-stitch book had been started at a staff development day several years ago, but was never completed, so I decided it was time to finish it and make it an interesting book by attaching the cover with Bookmakers Irish hemp cords.

Post-Binding

The post-bound guest book was made right after I had to do one for work and decided I needed to do another one for practice and as a model.  It served another purpose at the All 70’s BHS Class Reunion the weekend following the county fair.  The cover of the guest book featured a copy of Boone’s matador mascot “the Toreador” and was covered in red and green bookcloth (yes, our school colors are Christmas red and green!)  I had guests sign in with red and green markers as they “oohed and aahed” over the guest book with its red and green colored ribbons and silver beads spelling out “Boone” and “Toreadors.”

ToolBox

A while back, I received my own set of Caselli spatulas and tools. I decided I needed a nice box to keep them in to protect them at work when not in use.  We don’t buy boxes here in Preservation, we make them!  The box I made has two lift out Ethafoam cushioned trays and a cushioned bottom to store my Caselli tools, a brass triangle, specialty bone folders, and other miscellaneous tools.  Of course, I used my favorite Canapetta Natural bookcloth from Talas to cover the box.

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My last entry was a paper bow made from the pages of a discarded children’s book during a staff development day, and it can be hung on a tree or wall as an ornament.

All four entries received blue ribbons and each received good comments.  This is just another way to show off my talents from work and support the Open Class at the Boone County Fair.

We have a charming little mystery in the Conservation Lab right now.  A particularly aesthetically pleasing volume from our General Collection,  A Little Book of Nature Thoughts by Richard Jefferies (Mosher Press, 1903) caught my eye as it sat on the shelf awaiting repair.  Its type, its fine laid paper, its worn but once-beautiful sheepskin full leather binding, and its spare but elegant gold-stamped cover decoration all gave this slender, pocket-sized book an air of something special.

A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (1903)

A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (1903)

A little bit of digging revealed some characteristic particularities of Mosher Press editions, which expressed Mosher’s love of the book as artifact, as an object of beauty, and not merely as a utilitarian vessel for its content.  All books were hand-set, usually with Caslon type, with a few, modest decorative flourishes.  Most were printed on Van Gelder hand-made paper, and indeed, our little volume bears the Van Gelder watermark on a few of its pages.  Forty-seven Mosher titles between 1898-1913 were also printed on vellum.  Finally, most of these publisher’s bindings were bound in white, blue, green, or gray paper-covered boards and housed in slipcases.  This last detail about the binding surprised me, until I came across evidence of the allure that Mosher Press editions held for contemporary fine binders.

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According to the program of An Exhibition of Books from the Press of Thomas Bird Mosher from the Collection of Norman H. Strouse (1967), “No press has tempted the best efforts of so many of the world’s great binders as has the Mosher Press, but even when rebound in full leather, whether by the famous Grolier Club Bindery, Zaehnsdorf, or Sangorski & Sutcliffe, there is always something about the dimensions and title of a Mosher book that admits its identity to the Mosher collector on sight.”

Mosher himself was aware of his books’ appeal for the fine binder.  He commented in his 1898 catalog A List of Books in Limited Editions, that “In America, Mr. Otto Zahn, the Misses Nordholf and Bulkley; in London, Miss Prideaux and the Guild of Women Binders have re-clothed in exquisite bindings not a few of the special copies” of his editions.

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Our copy of A Little Book of Nature Thoughts, unfortunately, bears no bindery ticket, and no discernible private mark of its binder.  Something about the blank endpapers and simple, somewhat generic, floral board decoration suggests the work of a larger bindery rather than an individual fine binder in private practice.  I had hoped that the gold-stamped symbol on the back board (pictured above) would provide a clue to the binding’s origin, but my cursory searches have turned up no lead.  If this lit torch, surrounded by intertwined serpents (or vines?), represents a bindery with which you are familiar, then please let us know.  We welcome any and all theories and speculations!

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