I grew up around books. Lots of books. I began to read them at 3, or so I’m told. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read nor do I know how many books I’ve read, but I’d bet that number is somewhere on the upside of the average.
And because of this I’ve always had bookmarks too. In my mind, dog-earing a page corner is akin to writing in the margins – a cardinal sin, but occasionally necessary, and only then if the book’s condition or value allows it.
Nearly every bookstore supplies their own bookmark, as do most libraries, civic activities and organizations, museums and aquaria, parks and playhouses. If you need a ‘real’ bookmark, something created for the task, they’re easy to find.
We all have certain favorite bookmarks that we struggle not to lose, but in a pinch any slip of paper will do. Or a leaf, a feather, a piece of string, a gum wrapper, a picture, a dollar bill, a magazine response card, a random business card, or possibly even a ticket stub to a museum in Italy.
And they aren’t just slips of paper, either – formed brass, punched tin, stamped leather, wood laminate, shaved bark, reflective plastic, magnifying plastics, light lace, pattern-woven linen, crushed reed – just about any material that is cohesive, and won’t get absorbed by the book’s paper can or has been used to note a spot in someone’s book.
“The choice of a bookmark is a matter of personal taste and civilization, show me your bookmark and I will tell you who you are.”
Six years ago I went to work for the library as an operator of an automatic book sorter, the largest and most complex of it’s type, even today. The books are belted in from 4 spots around the library and carted in from the rest of the library system. Tens of thousands of books cross the line every day. For all the glitches and growing pains experienced, it is a truly remarkable machine and I count myself fortunate to have spent a couple years working it. I’ve since moved to Technical Collection Services but retain a certain love of the beast and a respect for the Ops that work it.
Well, as you can imagine, with all those books coming across the line, a few folks will invariably forget their bookmarks and I began to collect them. Like plenty of big readers, you can always find a bookmark around my house when you need one, so it wasn’t to stockpile against a shortage, but because I found it fascinating.
Seattle Children's Theater bookmarks. About 2 dozen going back to 2005 or 2006. I love these things! New shows bring new bookmarks and the artwork on them is wonderful.
It seemed that for every twenty mundane bookmarks came a special one; perhaps made from some unusual material, artistically beautiful, cleverly made, or made with personal care. The diversity was impressive. Soon I was getting bookmarks from all over the library and beyond. After I moved to TCS the Operators have kept pulling them for me and now the collection counts somewhere in the thousands.
A few months ago I mentioned to a co-worker I’d been thinking about trying to find a way to display a portion of the collection as I was accumulating some beautiful and unique items. An hour later he’d gotten me hooked up with the proper librarian and within 48 hours I was offered a month of display time in one of the cases spread around the library. One on a well traveled route, no less.
And I had a month to figure out how to display bookmarks in a 3 x 2 x 1 foot high case without resorting to the “pile in the center” method of display design.
Display Overview. The 5 black and white ones right in the center are a series of stairway details from Portland's Multnomah Central Library. To the left side you can see some (primarily Japanese) bookmarks that I've had for a long time and are rather ancient as bookmarks go. To the right is a unique folded silk 'doll' bookmark.
Cats in front, NW animals next (including the Flying Moose), a limited series of Dewey 'century' bookmarks, and a Poetry on the Buses series in the back. Painted wood along the side, and pressed flowers right up front.
SPL program bookmarks up front, general library and services behind that, and Seattle theater and music take up the last row. Snuck in my R. Crumb bookmark on that rack (yellow one on the right)
My apologies for the poor picture quality, they were taken with my phone…
The racks were made by Sacred Bull out of red oak. Nice and heavy, one foot long. He and Sacred Cow played around with the angle of repose and settled on a 30 degree angle. Worked out perfectly and looked fantastic! Many thanks to them!
I have a grocery bag stuffed with bookmarks that didn’t make the cut! It’s likely that I’ll be doing a few more when they need some space filling. There’s certainly enough to riff on several themes.
Oh! And go visit your local library! Now, yes. Get a library card while you’re there too.
Obligatory 'Tick' Reference
And Read A Book!