“A gift in support of libraries, books, works, ideas.”

I woke up this morning to find a lovely little gem in my Facebook inbox.  My cousin, who shares my love of literature, sent me this fascinating link to a page on the mystery book sculptures of Edinburgh.  In March of this year, someone in the Scottish Poetry Library found this beautiful paper sculpture, made from books, and addressed to the library’s Twitter account, @byleaveswelive.

Photos courtesy of Chrisdonia, poster of the original article at Central Station.

They thought it was pretty cool, obviously, but little did they know that more of these incredible pieces would pop up at various libraries and book venues around Edinburgh over the course of the next several months.  Ten in all were left in various libraries, given “in support of libraries, books, works, ideas.”

Although some speculated as to who the mysterious gift-giver could be, the identity of this incredible artist remains unknown. A longer, typed, note accompanying one of the final pieces reveals that the artist is a woman, but that you won’t find her among the community of well-known book artists, as this was her first foray into art with books.  It’s hard to believe, because the pieces are incredible.  The attention to detail is astounding; the time it must have taken to craft these works must have been extensive.  Just look at these hand-crafted feathers from another piece left in the Scottish Poetry Library.

I love everything about this story.  The mystery artist, identity unknown.  The sculptures left behind in libraries, just waiting to be discovered – some were tucked in rather inconspicuous places and no one is sure how long they sat there before being discovered.  The beauty of the pieces themselves.  The homage the artist has paid to literature, particularly Scottish literature, and even more particularly the work of Ian Rankin.

But what I love most about this is that these items were left in libraries.  Working in a library, it’s easy to sometimes feel like people don’t really appreciate everything that we have on offer.  I’ve been doing a lot of outreach lately, and it’s surprising that so many of the students and faculty I’ve been talking to don’t even know where their library is!  Perhaps this is characteristic of medical libraries (though I suspect it’s true across the boards), but people often seem to think of the library today as a virtual space.  It’s true that technology has allowed the information to go with you practically wherever you go.  I recently wrote an article for the blog of the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona about tools for accessing PubMed, the sort of go-to resource for biomedical literature, from mobile devices.  Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great that people can get to information wherever and whenever they need it, but at the same time, I feel like people are missing out on a certain something if they never actually come into the library, meet their librarian, and actually put their hands on some books.

So for someone to leave these items as gifts for the library, sort of a thank you for the work of libraries, is quite nice.  I wish someone would do this for my library!  As long as it didn’t involve defacing rare books, of course. 🙂

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