Introducing BookLab!

August 24, 2018

BookLab is a hands-on space for engaging with the codex book that seeks to blend elements of the book arts with digital experimentation.

Contrary to reports of their death (greatly exaggerated!), our collective imagination of what a book is and what books can be has never more more alive than right now, in the midst of the digital turn. BookLab aims to combine elements of the traditional book arts with new platforms for digital expression to allow our students to explore this moment of media transition in creative and active ways--from movable type letterpress to 3-D printing, from page to screen and everything that happens in between.

BookLab is a space for the whole department. It is open and available to all students, staff, and faculty across all of the department's programs. We will be meeting with the different program directors to discuss some of the big picture planning in that regard but BookLab is also very much a work in progress, and is there to be shaped by your individual input and expectations over the coming semesters.

BookLab is fully committed to diversity, and to using its resources--the power of the press not least among them--to support the ideals expressed in this department's Statement of Values, as well as broader University initiatives like the Year of Immigration. We hope too to develop engagements with College Park and Prince George's County communities beyond the campus.

What you can expect to find in Tawes 3248, either now or very soon:

  • a small tabletop hand-press suitable for professional-grade letterpress printing with traditional lead ("movable") type, as well as from wood blocks or linoleum and photopolymer plates (read more about our press here);
  • accompanying supplies, including paper, ink, and a modest starter collection of type and blocks;
  • a range of materials for creating altered or treated books (see examples produced by previous Maryland students in this article);
  • electronic sensors and circuity for uses with altered and treated book projects;
  • papermaking kits;
  • a working collection of artist's books, experimental books, and scholarly books about books for your reference.

What you can expect to see this year:

  • regular open house hours;
  • printing workshops;
  • a set of "turn-key" BookLab-based assignments and activities that can be integrated into syllabi;
  • a BookLab "crash cart" for classroom visits to show off books and other items from the collections;
  • public talks and workshops from visiting scholars and artists.

Get involved!

  • if the door to 3248 is open, come in! We hope to be able to keep that door open often, and will be posting public hours soon;
  • reach out to us to talk about what you'd like to see from a resource like BookLab;
  • think about assignments for your classes that can take advantage of what BookLab has to offer;
  • think about ways BookLab can participate in whatever programming and initiatives you have going--we want to be active collaborators;
  • help us build up our collections--especially if you know someone with type or other printing materials, we're interested!

BookLab enjoys the benefit of an initial two-year commitment from the department. We will be working to find additional sources of support, and would like to grow into an integral part of the Maryland English experience.

There is much more we want to do: a chapbook series, our own letterpress imprint, facilities for 3-D printing, papermaking, book binding. Again, if you want to help, please reach out. We hope that "the" book--in all of its historical, material, global, and imaginative diversity--can be a focal point for a wide range of departmental conversations in years to come.

Co-facilitators: Matthew Kirschenbaum and Kari Kraus

2018.08.24: Announcing BOOKLAB!