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UCSB Library Celebrates 3 Millionth Book

Contemporary Artist’s Book Trees Chosen as Landmark


The UCSB Davidson Library celebrates reaching its milestone three-millionth volume this week with a contemporary twist: The printed item is a limited-edition accordion-style artist’s book.

It was a chance to highlight a particular discipline and emphasize a more unusual book,” said Brian Mathews, an assistant librarian. The volume, Charles Hobson’s Trees, is a rendition of the poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning United States Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin.

Planning for the three-millionth volume celebration began under the library’s current theme, “What is a Book?” This prompted librarians to consider a book’s boundaries, such as e-books, kindles, and other medium, Mathews said. With a collection of a thousand artists’ books, he said, “We wanted to explore a different format.”

Trees is an interactive visual book, with lines of the poem and high-resolution images of palm trees printed on its hinged, foldable pages. Viewers can use a tiny flashlight to illuminate the outline of a palm tree on one page, creating a silhouette against a picture of the night sky on the following page. The interactive artist’s book is housed in a wooden box.

The book’s environmental subject matter harmonized with the current “heightened sustainability theme,” Mathews said.

Since the library’s beginning in 1954, it has accumulated one million volumes roughly every 20 years. Besides printed volumes, the library has collected more than nine million “things,” including manuscripts, maps, aerial photos, phonographic records, and electric journals, Mathews said.

Three million books is one thing,” he said, “but when you account for the range of resources, it’s quite mind-blowing.”

In honor of the landmark, the Davidson Library will display exhibits of artists’ books contributed by students, recent alumni, and students around the country. The exhibit begins November 8 and extends to the end of the university’s winter quarter in the library’s lobby, Special Collections Department, and Arts Library. Hobson will also speak at 4 p.m. on November 10 at the University Center’s State Street Room.

Students and visitors from the community are welcome to contribute a page to the library’s newest addition, a book to be titled, “3 Million + 1.”

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