Notes from a Library Volunteer: the Cabinet of Curiosities

What place could a Bed Bath & Beyond medicine cabinet, purchased for $15.00 from Craigslist, possibly have in a library? Well, say that this library has quite a few artist’s books, left over from classes or purchased at art shows or donated by enthusiastic creators. And say that many of these books are

San Francisco Center for the Book

The cabinet of Curiosities, interior

smaller than

San Francisco Center for the Book

The Cabinet of Curiosities, exterior.

normal-book-sized: I’m talking anywhere from the size of my palm to an inch

across. Some of them are the more conventional rectangle, some are tall and skinny and delicate. Some fit nicely into jewel cases that may have once housed CDs. One is triangular, and folds out to become a series of pyramids. One is made out of (and enclosed within) a miniature box of Special K cereal.

These books don’t fit nicely on the big shelves, the ones that are built to accommodate oversized issues of art magazines and typography bibles. For a while they were kept in a shoebox (one that, upon arriving, I tagged with yet another Post-It: “Mostly Tiny Artist’s Books”). But books, I think, deserve better than a shoebox.

Hence the Cabinet of Curiosities: smaller shelves for smaller books! Though it still smells vaguely of toothpaste, the little case will make sure that these marvelous little creations get their due. And if other library-users are anything like me, the exciting prospect of opening a wee door and discovering the treasures within will make sure that the smaller books will be looked at as much as – if not more than! – their larger companions.

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Zoe is a student at Reed College, and an amateur playwright. During the summer of 2013 she is a volunteer at SFCB contributing her time and wit to the library and her sorting talents to the California job cases in the print studio.

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