Text, Image, and Form: The Altered Book Project

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by Sylvia Rortvedt

Virginia Library Association, Virginia Libraries, July-September 2007


Books with pages missing. Torn books. Books with writing, underlining, and drawing in them. These are usually a librarian’s nightmare, but in a recent collaboration with art faculty and students, they have become the basis of a highly successful class project and library exhibit.

Nearly two years ago Rebecca Kamen and Lisa Hill, members of the art faculty at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), contacted me to see if there were any unwanted donations or library discards that they could have for a new design project on altered books. I was intrigued.

I’m the associate director for learning resources at the Alexandria Campus, and I invited them to look through the discards for anything that might be appropriate for their class. Kamen and Hill selected a number of books they thought had potential, and several months later, I was invited to the class in which students presented their altered book projects. It was wonderful to see what they had created based upon an interpretation of the text using the physical elements of the book as catalyst and structure. Pages became ocean waves; words literally poured out from a dictionary; and a Da Vinci text was poised for flight. We all agreed their work deserved a larger audience than the classroom

Copyright Virginia Library Association, Virginia Libraries, July-September 2007. Used with permission.

Sylvia Rortvedt is associate director of learning resources at the Alexandria Campus Library of Northern Virginia Community College.