Not one ‘shhhh’: children making cardboard books at the University Library

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Children proudly showing their work

On Thursday 1st of August the University Library opened its doors to an enthusiastic bunch of children aged 7-13 invited to create their own books at the Cardboard publishing in the courtyard event, part of the Summer at the Museums series.

The morning and afternoon workshops in the North Courtyard were led by Dr Lucy Bell and Dr Patrick O’Hare, researchers from the Cartonera Publishing project  (cartón meaning cardboard in Spanish), of which Cambridge University Library, the British Library and Senate House Library are partners.

The researchers introduced the project and played a video to the children and their families. They explained how some independent publishers and communities in Latin America are using recycled cardboard to make books in order to make literature more accessible. Cartonera publishers are independent cardboard book presses that first appeared in Argentina in 2003 after a severe economic crisis. The cartoneras became a movement of social relevance that rapidly spread to other countries in Latin America and beyond.

Sonia Morcillo and Clara Panozzo, responsible for the Hispanic collections at the University Library, talked about the Library’s cartonera collection, which has reached 256 items so far. Special mention was made of the wonderful work that the Library’s Conservation Department is doing to preserve the books, placing them in custom-made acid-free boxes and enveloping each item in acid-free paper within them.

After this brief introduction, children were guided through the process of decorating their own cardboard book covers (pre-cut A4 pieces of cardboard folded in the middle) and assembling the books by stitching a gathering of blank sheets to the covers.

In a relaxed and diligent atmosphere, and assisted by Patrick, Lucy and us librarians, the children took to the activity with eagerness. Beautiful notebooks were made using a variety of pens, brushes, colour palettes with acrylic paint and numerous foam dabber shapes and rollers to spark the little artists’ imagination. They all seemed pleased with their very own handmade notebooks at the end of the session but, above all, we hope that they learned to appreciate the value of books and the good work that libraries are doing to preserve them for future generations.

Sonia  Morcillo and Clara Panozzo

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