The Countdown

by Susan Kruse
Catalogue Des Livres de la Bibliotheque de feu M. De Selle published 1763 - Library of Lost Books collection

So here we go into the final few weeks before we exhibit the books at The Library of Birmingham. It seems incredible that the Library have taken such a positive and forward thinking stance on re-using their discarded books, let alone having us exhibit them as part of the Discovery Season programme. With The Library of Lost Books exhibition,  Birmingham Library really is 'rewriting the book.'

A year ago a great hullabaloo ensued when Manchester Libraries was discovered to be throwing away books. Many people got up in arms and very upset about the binning of the books. Of course, people have a deeply emotional connection to books, not just the text within, but to the books themselves, especially old books. So it was tremendously brave of Birmingham Library to let us rummage around in their discard bins and ferret out some rather stunning, if tattered and broken, old books.

The truth of the matter though, is that libraries do get rid of books. They have to. And we have to realise, book-lovers though we may be, that the cost to libraries of keeping and repairing every old book would mean there would be no budget or space for new books. Would we really want our public libraries full of tattered books two hundred years out of date? It can be argued that in our times when texts can be digitised and more and more people own e-readers why keep the old book taking up space?

Well luckily for my project Birmingham Libraries is a forward thinking place run by forward thinking people. Especially one Janet Brisland, sadly no longer with us, who believed that my idea, to take Birmingham's unwanted, discarded books and do something positive and beautiful with them was a good one.

That was two years ago and here we still are with over 50 books salvaged, loved, sent out to artists, turned into art and returned to Birmingham. In 11 short weeks you will be able to visit us at the Library of Birmingham and decide for yourself if re-making these old books was a good thing. I look forward to seeing you there!


Anonymous said…
I think it is better that the books are used than just thrown away. Birmingham Libraries did a good thing!

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