Category Archives: school

A Flock of Books

Cross-posted as Bookmaking for Beginners

On Saturday, I took a Bookmaking for Beginners workshop taught by Sarah Smith through GSLIS Continuing Education. The workshop began with a short lecture about different kinds of bindings through history, and how contemporary artists are re-using and making books. The rest of the day was all hands-on: we started with the one-sheet fold-up and the accordion structure, then the blossom fold, Turkish map fold, and Korean map fold; then we learned how to make single-section and two-section pamphlets, and finally how to do chain-stitch.

All the books! From top to bottom: Blossom fold, Korean map fold, accordion fold (with covers), woven flexagon, Turkish map fold, two-section pamphlet, one-section pamphlets, chain-stitched binding.

From left to right: two-section pamphlet, one-section pamphlets (3- and 5-station), and Korean map fold.

This is the Korean map fold book: it’s the same one that looks like a little cedar block in the previous picture. It’s bulky because it contains six pieces of 8.5″x11″ paper, folded into 8 sections each.

This is the two-section pamphlet; the sections are each made up of four sheets of paper, each folded in half once. The cover has a pleat in the middle, and there are three “stations” (holes) where the waxed thread goes through all the layers to hold it together.

This is a one-section pamphlet, also with three stations. I gave the other pamphlets rounded corners, but I folded the edges of this cover in, so it has French flaps (like fancy trade paperback editions sometimes do).

All four pamplets: the top two have five stations, the bottom two have three.

Standing up like this, these remind me of The Monster Book of Monsters from Harry Potter (when Hagrid teaches the Care of Magical Creatures). On the left is the blossom fold; on the right, the Turkish map fold.

Here’s the Turkish map fold, open. It does fold down nice and flat – I think I have a city map of Paris folded in a similar way.

This has the best name of all: woven flexagon. We started with one long sheet (the cream-colored paper), and used a blade to make slices about 1″ apart; then, we took the colored papers and wove them between the slices. It’s quite cheerful-looking, but I have no idea what I’ll do with it.

A simple accordion fold, with covers made of binder’s board covered with decorative paper. We got to use polyvinyl acetate (PVA), an archival-safe plastic adhesive, to glue the paper cover over the board. Sarah showed us how to tuck the corners in with a bone folder to make them smooth and sharp.

The same book, lying open. I preferred the sewing to the folding; I couldn’t make the folds 100% exact. Sarah also showed us how to make an accordion fold with pockets, which I would have liked to cover with the binder’s board, but mine didn’t quite stack straight.

Finally, the chain stitch – this is the longest book, with five sections, or signatures, sewn together.

Here’s the chain-stitched booklet, closed. The stitching makes a nice pattern.

Other than being pretty, the chain stitch is also a nice binding because it allows the book to open flat, which is good for journals and sketchbooks, because you can write or draw deeper into the margins without worrying about the gutter.

All the bindings!

A flock of books – all hand-made in less than seven hours. Even though I probably won’t be using these bookmaking skills in a practical setting anytime soon, the workshop was a good experience: I learned new things, stretched the part of my brain that relates to making tactile things, and created a physical product to use or give as gifts. All in all, a Saturday well spent.

What I’ve been reading: The Mirador, Elisabeth Gille; The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean; The Blood Confession, Alisa Libby
What I’ve been listening to: Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger (audiobook); Clarity, Jimmy Eat World


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Western Mass.

We went out to Hampshire for Family & Friends Weekend, and western MA  showed all its pretty colors.

Also, llama! (We visited the farm.)

And cows. 

Running for cover: a mostly sunny, breezy day was interrupted by a brief rainstorm.

But the sun came out again.

We stopped by Atkins for cider donuts.

The trees in the middle of campus always turn the most spectacular colors.

It’s always worth the drive out – and it’s much closer to Boston than to New York, so now I can get there and back in a day. Fresh cider donuts only a couple of hours away…dangerous.

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I just came across this little aside in a textbook for my collection development class: “If there is a bibliographic equivalent of alcoholism, many librarians have it.” The following sentence cites the Random House Dictionary’s definition of bibliomania: an “excessive fondness for acquiring and possessing books.” (Note it doesn’t mention an excessive (or obsessive) fondness for reading books.) The text goes on, “Most bibliomaniacs (librarians included) cannot stay out of bookstores and consider it a great feat of willpower and self-control if they manage to leave one without buying a book or two.” Well if that’s isn’t chillingly accurate.

For more on the topic of bibliophilia/bibliomania, I highly recommend Allison Hoover Bartlett’s excellent The Man Who Loved Books Too Much.

Back to doing homework. And sneezing. Is anyone in all of New England NOT sick right now?

What I’ve been reading: State of Wonder, Ann Patchett; The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Jonathan Coe
What I’ve been listening to: Clarity and Futures, Jimmy Eat World; Say I Am You, The Weepies; The Suburbs, Arcade Fire

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Marginalia Winter Wrap-Up Part II

Here’s part two; professor quotes from last semester’s Organization and Management of Public Libraries class.

On religion: “The Church has always been interested in libraries – either building them or burning them.”

On Irish monasteries, where much classic literature was preserved while the rest of Europe was in the dark ages: “No one bothered to pillage them, they were too far away.”

On public library work: “Plumbing – that’s the number one thing they SHOULD be teaching you in library school.”

On funding: “They will fund ANYTHING that’s big and red and has a flashing light on top.”

On the limitation of the power of library directors: “NOBODY gets to do whatever they want.”

On the importance of contracts: “If nothing else, it cuts down on the number of times you’re gonna get sued.”

On the emergence of bar codes: “That was some kind of magic.”

On Boards of Trustees with too many members: “If there was a just and loving God this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.”

On Public Relations: “Nobody says no to a Children’s Librarian! They’re the best PR we’ve got.”

On the Chinese lead-paint-in-toys-scare, and deaccessioning: “It’s not going to be a problem until somebody sues you – and nobody’s going going to sue you for having children’s books. They’re gonna sue you for throwing out children’s books!”

On the 1950s: “The heyday of paperweights.”

On different rules for the teen room in a library: “You should be able to swing from the chandeliers in the teen room!”

On centralized selection: “It’s cold and heartless, but it’s brutally efficient.”

On the public’s reaction to outsourcing selection: “Can you imagine [the] Cambridge [Public Library] outsourcing selection? No! They’d burn the place down. They’d have a rally…”

On the obvious: “Librarians love to organize things.”

On power: “It’s amazing how much good you can do in a position of authority.”

On (dis)organization: “There’s a section where they stuffed a puppet!”

On catalogers: “Catalogers are obsessed with accuracy.”

On research: “I’m amazed at how often you go looking for information about libraries and end up in Australia.”

A guest speaker, on politically correct terminology: “I don’t think it’s pejorative – golfers still use handicaps.”

On the timeline: “[Public libraries] have been around for 150 years. That’s current events, not history.”

On the need to justify library costs in business terms: “Don’t blame me for this, blame Reagan.”

On upcoming lecture material: “Next week’s topic is puppets and power tools.”

On customer service: “The customer is NOT always right. Half the time the customer is INSANE.”

On humor and statistics: “There are very few statistical jokes out there.”

On the wording in job ads: “‘Scenic’ means COLD. ‘Scenic’ in Wisconsin means there are no hills to block the wind.”

On the difference between logic and reality: “That’s a logical statement, not a realistic statement.”

On literature, quality of: “SOMEONE should stand up and say Nora Roberts sucks.”

On the ‘Cockroach Principle’: “If one person wants a book, there are five other people who are too socially inhibited to ask for it.”

On strategic plans: “If you are within three years of being perfect, well then, you don’t belong on this earth.”

On the consequences of quoting inaccurately: “Now I’m going to misquote Oliver Wendell Holmes, for which I will burn in hell.”

What I’m reading: First Among Sequels, Jasper Fforde
What I’m listening to: The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, Badly Drawn Boy; Mae’s indie mix

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Marginalia Winter Wrap-Up

Yes, “Marginalia” returns! Today is the first Digital Libraries class, taught by The Patron Saint of Catalogers (TPSoC), who also taught the Information Organization class I took last summer. (See the collected quotes here.) I’m looking forward to whatever gems of language she has to offer this semester, but before it begins, I am taking the opportunity to gather some professor quotes from last semester. I had some wonderful professors, though none quite as eminently quotable as TPSoC, so here are some of their most memorable utterances, as well as other marginalia, i.e., doodles.

From Reference and Information Services

On information seekers: “Eventually, you will have to deal with people.”

On communication failures: [a drawing of a sad person, head in hands, bent over a desk, accompanied by speech bubble: “No one understands my information need.”]

On ageism in libraries: [a drawing of an old person with a cane and a young person slouching in a chair behind a computer. Dialogue: “Young scamp! You couldn’t possibly help.” “Old coot! I have access to databases.”

On confidentiality: “If someone really wanted to build a bomb, the last thing they’re going to do is go down to the public library.”

From Technology for Information Professionals

On e-mail: “I believe it’s a tool that should be used sparingly.”

On language: “We’re gonna teach you tech-ese.”

On outlook: “There are no problems, only challenges.”

On freedom: “Freedom makes extra complexity in life.”

On the hourglass (PCs) and the Spinning Colorwheel of Doom (Macs): “This is all so you humans will know what the machine is doing.”

On course content, limitations of: “The whole subject of why people do bad things is beyond the scope of this course.”

On the past (in a sad tone of voice): “There was a time when there were no hard drives in the world…”

On artistic talent: “So as you know I’m a tremendous artist…” [draws a stick figure]

On the sciences vs. the humanities in academics: “Anyway, there’s a lot of geekiness on both sides.”

On creative solutions to spelling problems: “How do you spell ‘caviar’? C – A – V… fish eggs.”

On bald stick figures: “And we hope the person’s happy…he should have hair to be happy.” [draws hair on the stick figure]

On how long it would take to catalog everything, even if everyone in the world became a cataloger: “The babies would be dead by then.”

On the existence of librarians’ concern for privacy: “Unlike the rest of the world.”

On maintaining personal privacy in a technological age: “There’s all sorts of ways – you could become a Luddite, and refuse.”

On databases: “Any time you [are assigned] a number, you’re in a database somewhere.”

On the field of ‘competitive intelligence’: “It’s like spying.”

On potential employers: “They want a human being, not just a nerd!”

Part Two to come!

What I’m reading: The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
What I’m listening to: Big Star, Badly Drawn Boy

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I guess I get excited about free speech issues.

Please read this article from 2009 in American Libraries:  Milwaukee Group Seeks Fiery Alternative to Materials Challenge. Then come back here, and read these two reviews of the book in question (both of these reviews came from and are available on Amazon’s page for this book):

From Publishers Weekly:

Embroidering her prose with lushly romantic imagery, Block returns to the world of Weetzie Bat for this keenly felt story. A prequel of sorts to Weetzie Bat, the novel opens while Weetzie’s best friend Dirk is still a child, lying on his mat at naptime. “Dirk had known it since he could remember” – known, that is, that he is gay. Tenderly raised by Grandma Fifi, famous for her pastries and her 1955 Pontiac convertible, Dirk struggles with love and fear: “He wanted to be strong and to love someone who was strong; he wanted to meet any gaze, to laugh under the brightest sunlight and never hide.” After his first heartbreak, with his closest friend (who cannot accept Dirk’s love nor his own for Dirk), Dirk battles more fiercely for identity; beaten up by a gang of punks, he slumps into semiconsciousness and is visited by his ancestors, each telling a haunting, lyrical tale of love, faith and self-acceptance. What might seem didactic from lesser writers becomes a gleaming gift from Block. Her extravagantly imaginative settings and finely honed perspectives remind the reader that there is magic everywhere. (Recommended for ages 12 and up.)

From School Library Journal:

A prequel to the popular books about Weetzie Bat and her circle of quirky friends and relatives. This novel is about her best pal, Dirk, in his pre-Weetzie days. He’s in high school (in L.A., of course), living with Grandma Fifi and struggling with how to come out to his best friend and soulmate. Although Dirk never does tell Pup he’s gay, Pup feels the sexual tension between them: “‘I love you, Dirk,’ Pup said. ‘But I can’t handle it.'” In reaction, Dirk takes to slam dancing in punk joints. When a gang of gay bashers beats him up, he drags himself home and passes out. While he’s unconscious, long-dead relatives he’s never known come to him in what seem to be dreams; when he wakes in the hospital, he realizes that his grandmother has been telling him stories. Out of her comforting words about how others in his family have insisted on being themselves, his battered brain fashions hopeful hallucinations, including one of his future lover. His visions assure him that “There was love waiting; love would come.” Block writes distinctively and convincingly, interweaving the hallucination scenes smoothly. She makes the power of stories felt – and here, more purposefully than ever before, she weaves a safety net of words for readers longing to feel at home with themselves. Gay teens in particular need this book. All fans of the series will relish meeting nice-guy Dirk as the tender Baby Be-Bop. (Recommended for Grade 10 and up.) (Emphasis mine.)

Some people, I hear, get incoherent with anger. I prefer to get articulate. Here is the post I wrote on my class’ discussion board this week, in response to the Wisconsin firebugs:


I wasn’t going to comment any more till next week but OH. MY. I don’t even know where to start with this one. How is it possible for people to be so easily offended? A ten-foot-high obscenity spray-painted across the front of my house MIGHT get me as riled up as these people are about a YA book. Might.

Okay. Really, where to begin? With the “accusation” that the library board of trustees were “submitting to the will” of such radical fringe groups as ALA and the ACLU? With the “damage” done to the “mental and emotional well-being” of the elderly plaintiffs – who, I might add, must have lived through some seriously turbulent eras in American history, when the n-word was used much more commonly than it is in this book? With the characterization of “explicitly vulgar, racial” – not racist, racial! – “and anti-Christian” serving as the grounds for objection? With the fact that a grand jury could declare the book obscene and making it available a hate crime? With the fact that four trustees were denied reappointment for following the library’s own reconsideration process instead of immediately yanking the book from the shelf? With the fact that it’s 2010 and people still want to burn books?

I think that about covers it, actually. I wonder if the West Bend Parents for Free Speech accept donations.

Also, I did not know Wisconsin had a “sexual morality law.”


Normally I am a little more balanced and scholarly on the discussion board, but this one just kind of blew my mind. And I’m sure it isn’t an extraordinary case – I’ve always lived in pretty liberal areas where Banned Books Week means there are displays of books that have been challenged or banned (elsewhere) and everyone is encouraged to read them.

Part of the issue, of course, is freedom of speech and freedom of expression (which we are legally guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution), and that works for both sides – the author is entitled to write whatever she wants, and the publisher is entitled to publish and distribute it. People also have a right to protest and object. Moving down a level from the federal, there is also the American Library Association’s (ALA) Freedom to Read Statement, which begins, “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy.” Pretty clear there. Then we have the ALA Code of Ethics. While librarians commit to providing the highest level of service and equal access to all, we also “uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” As a citizen and as a librarian(-in-training), freedom of speech and thought are important to me, as is fighting censorship.

This sort of fuss – what happened in Wisconsin – is routinely kicked up over fiction. Harry Potter, to take one major contemporary example, has been challenged all over the place for promoting witchcraft, among other reasons. We all know that acknowledged literary classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird have been challenged and banned since they were first published, and Ulysses wasn’t even allowed in the country when it was first printed. Now, I am the last person to say that fiction can’t influence a person – of course it can, or no one would be so worried about it. But: I don’t believe that writers of fiction can invent anything worse than things that have already taken place on this earth. That is not an insult to the creativity of fiction writers, but rather an unspeakably sad reflection on human history. We cannot imagine worse tragedies than we have already propagated on one another – murder, war, genocide, indifference…and all of that is in libraries already, in the nonfiction section. (Oh, and speaking of violence – the Bible is most definitely one of the most violent, and arguably immoral, documents I’ve ever read.)

Could also be that it takes a lot to offend me personally. (That’s not a challenge, by the way.) I really do believe that people have a right to voice their opinions, no matter how vehemently I disagree with them, and vice-versa. I do NOT believe, however, that anyone else should get to decide what I read. (Though “keep your laws off my books” doesn’t work as well as “keep your laws off my body,” catchphrase-wise. The laws are supposed to be “on the books,” unless someone is prepared to memorize every legislative document in the country, and I will go out on a limb right now and say that no one is. Oral tradition, meet the U.S. Tax Code.)

Anyone still interested in censorship/free speech issues and libraries might like these articles:

Children’s book author Dan Gutman wrote this article for School Library Journal in response to an angry letter from a parent (he also wrote back to the parent).

Lester Ashiem, an influential figure in the library world in the 20th century, wrote this piece on censorship vs. selection in 1953; ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom got permission to post it on its website in 2005.

Thank you and goodnight.

What I’m reading: WHATEVER I DAMN WELL PLEASE. In this case, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
What I’m listening to: The Suburbs, Arcade Fire; We’re Not Happy Till You’re Not Happy and Why Do They Rock So Hard, Reel Big Fish

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Caught up to yesterday

I am not normally a sun-loving creature, but THANK GOODNESS the sun has finally come out. After days and days of gray and rain it’s really nice to see some daylight.

Yesterday morning a lot of little things were going wrong and piling up and I was feeling behind on schoolwork and I decided that going to the gym would get all the happy chemicals going again, so I packed everything up and headed to the train. When I got to the platform I was about to put my wet umbrella on the bench next to me, but then I thought someone might sit there later and get all wet, so I put it on the ground between my feet instead. Then the train came, and naturally I walked off without my umbrella. I got a seat, but then, through my headphones, I heard a man shouting, and the woman sitting next to me tapped me on the shoulder; the man was standing on the platform right in front of the doors, holding my umbrella. I looked up from my book and stood up and nodded and he literally threw it through the doors, and I caught it and sat back down. I thanked the woman who had alerted me, and generally felt much, much better about humanity and things in general. It was like a reset button on my day, a “people are good” moment that wiped out all the little annoyances that had piled up earlier.

So thanks, people of Cambridge, and thanks to the student group who stocks the student lounge with free hot chocolate. Y’all are awesome.

(Also, after spending the better part of today reading, researching, and writing, I’m just about caught up to where I should have been yesterday. Going to use the next few days to get ahead…and maybe enjoy some of this sunshine.)

What I’m reading: Eva Moves the Furniture, Margot Livesey
What I’m listening to: Be OK, Ingrid Michaelson; El Momento Descuidado, The Church; #1 Record/Radio City, Big Star

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