Repurposing Print Books in a 21st-Century Academic Library
Like many other libraries, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam faces the challenge of dealing with a large but very little used print collection. In 2021, we started the project Omboeken (“Re:book”) in order to repurpose our print collection in innovative ways. In my paper, I will outline several approaches and illustrate how print collections can contribute to fostering community building and knowledge creation in a 21st-century library. To discover the different values and potentialities of our print books, we divided them into four categories: 1) rare books, 2) books for research and teaching, 3) books for inspiration and 4) books for artistic endeavors and social activities. One of the issues I discuss in the paper are the challenges we faced so far in formulating and applying criteria for these categories.
The core working material of the project consists of books from categories 3 and 4. For the selection of books for inspiration, we curate “inspiration libraries” based on the Sustainable Development Goals. In this way, we make VU research themes visible and foster interdisciplinary knowledge creation. We also aim to make visible how research from theology and other humanities fields contributes to societal issues. I will give examples of inspiration libraries that we created so far. Finally, I will discuss a case study pertaining to the last category, books that lost their informational value due to their online availability or outdated content but still have value as objects. One of the goals of the project is to explore the value of books on campus in the form of artworks. I will present the “Pantheon”, an artwork created with books that aims to create a campus environment that fosters creativity and a research mindset.
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