The Carleton University Library opened its Book Arts Lab in November 2019. Today, the lab hosts classes daily where students are provided opportunities to experiment in various book arts activities. You can often walk by the lab and see them typesetting, printing, lino-cutting for prints, binding books and most recently, marbling paper. The lab is a hive of activity. Due to increased demand for additional opportunities to use the lab outside the classroom, students established a Book Arts Society.  Activities are booked up well in advance and many take place in the book arts lab. The lab works with community practitioners to develop exhibits, provide advice and hands-on help with projects. It is a place of gathering, experimenting, and learning.

The MacOdrum Library Book Arts Lab exists to enhance the teaching and learning experience of students from all disciplines by introducing them to the book arts and sciences in a practical, “hand-on” manner. We aim to build a bridge between book arts practise and critical thinking, creative expression, imaginative realizations, breadth of perspective, identity, mental health, sustainability persistence, integrity, complexity and an appreciation for paradox – applicable to any field of study. Apprentices (or interns if you will) are important to these goals, as they assist with day-to-day functioning of a busy lab and help further these goals.

Two apprentices in the Lab would learn skills related to bookbinding, letterpress printing, calligraphy, paper making and paper decorating, wood cut relief printing, ink making, quill cutting and more. They will assist with learning activities, help maintain the order and cleanliness of the Lab, aid in the maintenance of the type collection and equipment, and work on special projects – their own or in collaboration. Ideally, we would stagger the students two or three years apart, so that as one leaves, the remaining apprentice can help train the new replacement recruit. This presents a holistic and rotating system that provides stability to the students and to the Lab’s goals.

The objective is not to create expert printers and bookbinders; however, we do witness the student’s awareness and appreciation grow daily. Students working in the lab will rethink how they view positive and negative space, think through problems to resolution and notice applications in their other studies.  Students working in the lab, become empowered through their own creativity and accomplishments.