ALCTS, a division of the American Association has designated the last week of April as “Preservation Week.” Preservation in a library context includes all efforts to repair, protect and maintain items that contain information. Preservation is not limited just to books– other items such as historical documents, films, clothing and even furniture contain valuable information for researching history and heritage.
This month’s blog is all about the creation and preservation of information containers. Dr. Bill Franklin of the NCTC Corinth campus lets us take a peek into his book making studio. Dianne Smith, library assistant for the Corinth campus shares her hauntingly beautiful art books. Jessica Phillips, head of the University of North Texas Preservation Department joins us for the audio podcast portion, and provides a tour of her department’s workroom.
Dr. Bill Franklin – Keeping a Traditional Craft Alive
Dr. Bill Franklin received his doctorate in eighteenth century British Literature from the University of North Texas. He has been an English professor with NCTC since 1989, where he currently teaches composition, literature and creative writing.
An Interest in Making Books
By 1984 Dr. Franklin already possessed an interest in photography and picture book making. However, a university course titled “Bibliography and Methods of Research” taught by rare book curator Kenneth Lavender, gave him a deeper appreciation for how books are created. While typical bibliographies require only a superficial overview of a book, Lavender required notations of the book’s “paper, the boards, the covering, the plates—everything!”
It Came to Him in a Dream, Sort Of
Fast forward to May 7, 2008, Dr. Franklin woke with an image from the children’s book The Tall Book of Make Believe in his head, which he immediately ordered. Unfortunately the book arrived in disrepair, with a few shoddy attempts at repairs with masking tape.
Book Repair Bootcamp
To do the Tall Book of Make Believe justice, Dr. Franklin contacted Catherine Burkhard of Books n’ Letters Studio for advice on repairing the book. Burkhard insisted that to properly understand book repairs, one must first create books from scratch. Many books, and eight years later, Burkhard and Franklin are still working together on repairs and book making. Dr. Franklin admits that even after eight years of “serious effort,” he is still a “beginner.” He was kind enough to share some of his projects with us.
Making a Book
According to Dr. Franklin, there are many ways to make a book. He tells the simplistic method used by the famous American poet Emily Dickinson. Dickinson “folded sheets of stationary, wrote her poems on the resulting pages, [and] then sewed them together. When she died in 1886, her sister found 1,775 poems in these ‘fascicles’ in a wooden box.”
Less Efficient, but More Meaningful
Dr. Franklin relates that while art such as cave drawings have been part of the human experience for tens of thousands of years, book making is a relatively new method of “information capture.” Early incarnations of books were simple etched tablets of bee’s wax and clay. Though Dr. Franklin teaches online and is invested in the evolution of digital formats, he still enjoys cutting, gluing and sewing paper and leather. Creating a physical artifact may be less efficient than digital creation, but it is a “thing of beauty [he] can leave to [his] grandchildren.”
Print’s Not Dead
Many futurists predicted the death of the print book, but recent sales numbers reveal the exact opposite (Alter; Milliot). We asked Dr. Franklin to give us his opinion on the enduring appeal of print. Dr. Franklin admits that he does a great deal of reading digital text, but believes it is causing “damage to one’s thinking process.” He warns of something called “Twitter brain,” which is the tendency to haphazardly click link after link without much thought or care. This glut of information may be a blessing, but “also reprograms us to be lazy,” and distracted. He believes there is “plenty of room for paper books and digital books,” but when he wants his work to last he prefers paper. “Digits have a way of getting lost in the vast obsolescence of upgraded computers that can no longer remember how to read old files.”
For Those Interested in Book Making
“As a photographer who writes poetry and composes music, it was a twisting path that took me through art, classical and electronic music, photography, three English degrees, and years of actual bookbinding apprenticeship. I’ve been to exhibits, libraries, museums, and galleries in England, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and in various states. I read constantly, in print and online. I’ve spent 45 years so far, and expect to keep learning as long as I can hold a knife safely. If you want hand-on artistic exposure, try the Craft Guild. If the idea of a career in library conservation is appealing, head for the Rare Books Room at the Willis Library at the University of North Texas. Walk in, introduce yourself to anyone you find there, and see what happens. I did that 32 years ago and still count that one of the luckiest days of my life.”
Dianne Smith – Resident Library Book Artist
Dianne Smith is a fine arts photographer and book artist based in Denton, TX. She received her B.A. in psychology from Austin College and earned an AAS in commercial photography from Collin College, graduating Magna Cum Laude.
Her work has been exhibited across the United States. Dianne’s work applies her background in psychology to her conceptual storytelling, creating portraits which are moody, richly detailed, and thoughtfully open-ended.
Stay depicts the experience of losing someone loved after he or she chooses not to be part of one’s life. This is a capsule enveloping memories of displaced feelings to the complex mother/daughter bond. The block’s type face is Century, and is handset letterpress on handmade flax, gampi and abaca paper with added blended fibers. Embedded in the pages are fabrics that remind me of the clothing my mom used to wear. The cover is made of bugra mocha and unryu T old rose with inkjet Century text typeface.
The Worry Doll. 2014.
The Worry Doll is a tunnel book addressing the origins of anxiety. A soft wool fabric wraps the book. Fears are written on the external edges of the accordion folds. Inside, the book stretches out to reveal the repeated images of a small child on transparency film. Worry dolls are sewn between each page of transparency film. Worry dolls are given to sorrowful children to help them cope with their anxieties. The child assigns a fear to each doll, places them under his or her pillow and literally sleeps on it. In the morning the worries are said to be carried away by the worry doll. The book cover is made from hand dyed wool and a single handmade worry doll. The external portion of the accordion book is made from layering unryu paper with inkjet printed text. The internal pages are inkjet on transparency film. Gold thread is used to sew the handmade worry dolls into the pages.
Insulation is an externally quiet accordion book, with a muted palette and simple repeating shapes. Inside the hidden pockets of the soft natural pages reveal photographic images of sharp metal. These images depict displaced thoughts of someone learning to cope with a fragmented relationship and the struggle of compartmentalizing these thoughts so that they do not interfere with daily life. The structure of the book is made from unryu paper. Inside each page is an envelope containing a photographic image transferred onto aluminum. The images are connected to the book pages with thread. The photographic transfers onto aluminum are achieved using a product called “Lazertran,” a water slide decal transfer paper. The image is reversed using Photoshop and printed onto the Lazertran sheets using a laser printer. Once the metal pieces are cut, the image is soaked in water until the ink lifts off the paper and is very carefully placed onto the aluminum.
University of North Texas Preservation Department
Jessica Phillips, head of UNT preservation, was kind enough to meet with us over spring break. In this month’s podcast we talk with Jessica about her career in preservation. Here are the photos from our journey into the preservation workroom.
Alter, Alexander. “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print is Far from Dead.” The
New York Times. The New York Times Company, 22 September 2015. Web. 9 March
Milliot, Jim. “Print Book Sales Up Again in 2015.” Publisher’s Weekly. PWxyz, LLC., 1
January 2016. Web. 9 March 2016.
–Contributed by Flower Mound Librarian Sabrina McKethan