This Spring semester, I took a reference course (INLS501) from Stephanie Brown of UNC’s Park Library in which we were asked to create an online guide on the topic of our choice for whatever audience we wished.
My topic guide, found at bookartsfoundationalresources.wordpress.com, presents a basic introduction to book arts knowledge,providing an accessible starting point and memory aide for students and practitioners of book arts and history of the book. Book artists connect with one another online, through collaborative works, or workshops. Book historians often relegate themselves to historical observation and conferences. The two communities overlap occasionally at workshops—typically through the Rare Book School—so they share a basic vocabulary. Even with the proliferation of these and other communities centered on book arts, however, it’s challenging to locate centralized information that covers all of the aspects of the art.
Book arts encompass many interdisciplinary branches of craft; relevant branches include binding, calligraphy and illumination, conservation and preservation, digital media, history, papermaking, and printing. To explore the forms expressed in book arts, one needs access to materials from print encyclopedias to technical videos. The collection from which I’m selecting includes all online (primarily free) materials concerning the branches of book arts and suggestions made by book artists and art librarians in my acquaintance. I prioritized illustrated resources with an eye towards application. For example, I selected the Advance Reading Lists from the Rare Book School, which provides online subject-specific reading lists for 80+ courses. The scope includes bookbinding, bibliography, history of the book, illustration & printing processes, manuscripts, and typography & book design covering 800AD – 21st century. I also selected items like John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors. This illustrative dictionary covers technical, historical and contemporary book terms from 15th century – 2004. It is available online as a PDF.
Edits made after presenting a draft of the site to the class
After presenting to the class, Stephanie directed us to link items only when they were available online. This forced me to realize that narrowing the print collection to any physical collection, and therefore to a geographic location, didn’t allow the coverage needed to best serve the book arts community (originally I had also been pulling from UNC’s libraries). Most practitioners and historians locate their materials online, making geographic limiters arbitrary. The presentation, friends’ comments and INLS501’s emphasis on avoiding superfluous information informed my choices. The design is spare and I narrowed the home page to the necessities, gutting a section on access and eliminating the section on navigation. I focused on placing visual cues like links, bullets, and images in key areas.
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of most of the resources, I decided against individual posts themed around a book arts branch, since the additional scrolling and more complicated navigation scheme negate the virtue of tagging. Instead, I identified each column as traditional or contemporary, a division more pertinent to my audience than disciplinary splits.
For audience preference and because of the digital comfort levels displayed in INLS501’s examples, my tabs divide print and electronic resources; many in the community operate online, but sometimes the physical offers advantages like concrete ownership and the ability to mark up the text. Based on presentation suggestions, I simplified the resource descriptions and removed unnecessary buttons. I also made other changes, like adding a pipe symbol to delineate between the other buttons, avoiding jargon and enabling white space.
Creating this guide displayed the effort required for instruction, making me reconsider performance and assessment metrics while indulging my drive to disseminate information and introducing me to a fascination with HTML.
In the future, I will find the code to enable more white space between the columns. I also plan to add tabs for topics such as ‘Related Topic Guides’ and ‘Book Arts Organizations’