Much of my very first week working at Darlington was spent sifting through boxes and boxes of book donations from some very generous people. The books that were too damaged or unsuitable for the library’s collection posed an interesting challenge for me. Never being one to want to throw a book away, I began to ruminate over the possibilities of using such literary flotsam and jetsam for more beautiful purposes than just simple recycling.
I'd had this idea floating around in my head for a display for the library for a while and had experimented with a couple of projects in my apartment that left the walls partially plastered with various pages from "Emma," "Don Quixote," and "Tristram Shandy." From there I forayed into the world of book arts. When I was getting my library science degree at the University of Alabama, MLIS students shared the building with the Master of Book Arts students. They were always twiddling with printing presses, handmade paper, and Xacto knives, but essentially facilitating the birth of books. I was most interested in what should happen to books in their afterlife.
Ironically, there are many books that have been written on the deconstruction and alteration of discarded books: books being turned into elaborate sculptures or being plastered on canvas, books turned into ornaments, jewelry, picture frames—the possibilities are as endless as is imagination. That’s what I love about it. For most people, books are stories and knowledge, writing and words; but I can sit at my desk at ten odd minutes of the day and cut a book into five parts and fold and glue them into what can only be described as a flowery burst, and a bundle of students are utterly fascinated at this use for a book, never considered before. At least once a week since I started experimenting with book art five years ago, I get into conversations about books arts, its purpose, and whether or not it hurts the book’s soul to cut it up and tear it into pieces.
I have put up many displays since 2012, but this coming Spring, I will be creating the centerpieces for the Skip Anthony Banquet at the Association of Independent School Librarians Conference of which Director of Library Services Melinda Holmes is the planning committee chair. I am jubilant at this opportunity to create the most extensive collection of book art I've ever made and when I look at the things that can be created with some glue and a tattered book, I can say with confidence that in the McCallie-Kennedy Library, all books go to heaven.