Recrafting Books into Art at McCabe Library

by Sera Jeong '14
Grace Leonard '15
Grace Leonard '15 will lead another ornament-making workshop during student orientation in August.

Providing coffee and snacks during the semester and allowing patrons to talk, McCabe Library is anything but conventional. Accordingly, the third floor lounge recently hosted an arts and craft making event where staff and students cut out pages of books to create ornaments.

Over the course of a morning, librarians created adornments, including bows, book bursts, kusudama flowers, punched paper ornaments, and a dimensional circle ornament. Student Grace Leonard '15, an origami enthusiast from Haddonfield, N.J., guided the attendees on the craft-making process.

"It's always been really fascinating, how people have thought of folding paper in a certain way," Leonard says. "What was their inspiration? Was it actually a mistake that ended up as the starting point for an enduring art?"

Ornament-making created a buzz in McCabe after Science Librarian Meg Spencer gave Pam Harris, head of reference, a copy of The Repurposed Library, a book containing ideas on how to turn discarded books into objets d'art. Over the spring semester, two library interns, Amira Silver-Swartz '12 and Lisa Bao '14, took interest in Harris' book, even hosting an arts and craft study break workshop over reading week. "I have pictures of Amira using the band saw to slice books into quarters in order to make book bursts," Harris says.

Although librarians revere books, the process of getting rid of them is at times just as necessary as preserving and cataloging them. Arts and crafts is a fun way to repurpose unwanted books and those used to make the ornaments were thoughtfully selected. "Just like a flower or vegetable garden, we take special care of the collections, which sometimes involve weeding, or de-accessioning," Harris says. "The journals we've been using for arts and crafts are available full-text in JSTOR, and the print journals are also still accessible through our dark archive PORTICO."

During the summer, the library employs students to work on projects such as digitizing the Halcyon yearbook. A summer tradition, holding social events in McCabe is both fun and functional. "We have many students working in different library departments, and taking the time to introduce students and staff to one another is an excellent opportunity to foster an understanding of the breadth of our collections and the work we do here," Harris says. This summer, the library has already hosted an event entitled "Please Touch," a hands-on exhibition of books from the Rare Book Room.

The popularity of making arts and crafts has proven to be popular. Another workshop, led by Leonard, will take place during student orientation in August, allowing incoming students to have a hand in crafting their own paper mementos.