Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Upcycling old library stock

One of the displays of folded book art
Folded book art

Our discarded library books are routinely given to BetterWorld Books, but this year we held on to several and instead used them to create a display. We felt the college’s annual Green Week initiative was the ideal time to demonstrate ways in which old books can be reused. Two members of the library team (Fran Heap and myself) turned once-loved books into creative book sculptures. Permission was sought to position displays in the reception areas of the college’s two largest campuses, and almost 50 individual pieces were created.

The display has strengthened links between the library and various other college departments. We approached members of the art department about using their display cabinets, and also the floristry department regarding the use of their display stand. The latter also donated a number of floristry wires, which were used to create structure and support for various sculptures. The folded book art created a most amazing response and raised the profile of the library more than any other initiative in which we have taken part. Staff, learners and college visitors would stop to admire the displays and the high number of enquiries about them was completely unforeseen! People stopped to take photos as they passed, offered to buy the sculptures, and people who don’t usually visit the library came in especially to chat about the book art.  Various members of teaching staff invited us to facilitate sessions for learners, and sessions aimed at staff will be held during the college’s annual staff development week. We were even asked to create a commission piece as a gift for a member of staff! Since the end of Green Week, the book art enjoys a long-term residency in the college’s coffee shop.

It was wonderful to support the college’s Green Week in this way. Some people may argue that book art is merely book vandalism, but we believe upcycling books into things of beauty is a marvellous way of extending the lives of discarded and out-of-date books.  Why not give it a try?
Some of my favourite pieces from the folded book art display

Library Gift Tree
In the run up to December 2013 we considered how the library would celebrate Christmas. Our decorations looked a little tired and we hoped to do something different. We brainstormed ideas during a team meeting and decided upon a Gift Tree, in place of a usual Christmas Tree. We wanted to increase our involvement with charitable initiatives and felt we could use the festive season to promote a worthy cause.

Various members of the library team are quite craft-orientated and they created handcrafted baubles for the tree. The baubles took various styles and were made from discarded library books. Each one housed a small printed label displaying a food item. We invited members of the college community to take a handmade bauble – perhaps to place on their own Christmas tree at home – and in return donate the item listed. The collected items were to be donated to Glebe House, a college facility for learners who need a little extra pastoral support in life. Sessions are offered for young carers, young parents, those who need advice and guidance, or even those who simply need a safe space in which to relax.

We had previously contacted Glebe House to discuss the type of items they require to ensure everything collected could be used. Breakfast cereals, tea and coffee were in high demand! Other products such as washing powder and washing up liquid were also needed. The response to the Gift Tree was amazing. Over the course of just a month, support staff, teaching staff and learners donated vast amounts of goodies and by Christmas four very large hampers had been put together.

The Gift Tree was a simple way of increasing our involvement with the wider college community. It generated a positive buzz and promoted a spirit of sharing; it was wonderful to see people contribute. The Gift Tree was a great way of demonstrating how the library can support learners in ways other than academic means, particularly learners who may not otherwise make use of the services we provide.

We intend to have a Gift Tree again for Christmas 2014 and wonder how other FE libraries mark the festive time of year. What do you do?
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The above text, and some of the images, were included in issue 62 of the CoLRiC newsletter (May 2014), under the title 'Cara Clarke on ... unwanted books'.

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