My otherwise minimalist man cave has been overrun with library books lately, most of them from interlibrary loan. I've been obsessively reading late at night for various projects, usually annoyed if I can't get through two or three books a week. Last night, for some odd reason, I noticed the stamped "date due" slips pasted in the back of the books. I thought about what an enigmatic chronology they represent. I wondered who checked the books out. I wondered about the clusters of dates, the ten-year chronological leaps of dormancy, the layers of check out slips or the complete lack of them (Has no one at Colorado State checked out Zizek's The Parallax View? Has no one in Toronto checked out Lyotard's The Inhuman? Not that I'd blame them.), the colors of the ink, the relation of the stamps to the lines, etc. I realized that the library's digital books have no such history, no traces of past users, of frequency, or of the librarians. At least half of the books I read are digital. I imagine that the percentage will increase rapidly in the next few years. The "Date Due" slips are chronicles of how information has been circulated. They remind us of other readers (and sometimes of hierarchies such as "FACULTY LOAN") and of the physical passage of a book through the hands of other people. They are stories attached to books that will no longer be told.
So late last night, I spread out all of the books on my coffee table, and when I got up this morning, I photographed them. I will probably do more as other books make their way into my home. In fact, I may do some work about other signs of the material history of library books (like the annoying underlined passages left by disrespectful readers)—that is, if I can pull myself away from reading enough to pick up my camera.
Techniques of the Observer, Washington State University Libraries
Suspensions of Perception, Texas Tech University Libraries
Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern, BYU Libraries
The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft, BYU Libraries
The Parallax View, Colorado State University Libraries
Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840–1900, BYU Libraries
New Media, 1740-1915, University of Oklahoma Libraries
The Culture of Time and Space, Washington State University Libraries
Between Film and Screen, BYU Libraries
The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, University of Toronto Libraries
The Emergence of Cinematic Time, BYU Libraries