Yesterday I did the unthinkable for a book lover, I destroyed a book. Not just one or two either. I participated in the destruction of many books. And I did this right in front of the most sacred of book places – the entrance of a public library.

20170402_130018.jpgBut why?

But, why would I, a lover of books, an author (The Travelers), why would I destroy the very things I love so much? Was it some form of protest? Was I trying to raise awareness and use the destruction of books as a metaphor for the destruction of our collective intelligence? Was I trying to recreate Fahrenheit 451 without setting a fire? Had I just finally had enough of Dan Brown and couldn’t take it anymore?

It was none of those things. Actually, I did it for a reason I think most people will agree was a good reason. It was for Girl Scouts! Now, before anyone gets up in arms about this, there is a perfectly good reason I, along with my daughter and our Girl Scout Troop, tore up books right on top of the giant sign for the local library while a crowd of people looked on in horror.

It’s a misunderstanding.

Firstly, we got the time wrong. We weren’t supposed to have an audience. But, we’d scheduled that meeting, which was supposed to take place in one of the rooms of the library, to start a full half hour before the library opened. (Oops.) Being industrious Girl Scouts, this didn’t stop us. The day was lovely. I mean, really, it looked like this. It was practically perfect.

So we decided to begin our activity outside while we waited for the library to open. We pulled books out of boxes, laid them on the long stone sign for the library, opened them up and ripped out their insides.

20170402_124827However, we weren’t the only ones waiting for the library to open. As it drew closer to 1 pm, more library patrons gathered at the front door, arms and bags filled with their own books.

At first they just looked at us curiously.  Then, they started to notice what we were doing. The whispers began. Once they realized the awful thing happening right before their eyes, they turned their bags of books away from us or hugged their books, protectively. Some parents shielded their children with their bodies from the scene, horrified. (Just kidding. No one did those things.) But we did get many curious looks and a few “Um, what are you doing?”s.

The books, as we assured the horrified onlookers over and over, were donated by the library for this activity and had been marked for destruction anyway. Now their death would be meaningful.

So, what was the purpose of this seemingly senseless destruction?

20170402_124746This seemingly awful act had a pretty simple and good explanation. My daughter and her friend were running the Book Artist Badge event for the troop and the first step was taking apart hardcover books so that everyone could see the different types of book binding and parts that make up a book. (It’s more than you might realize! Enough to make up a whole presentation and everything.)

Many parts I already knew, such as

  • Spine
  • Binding
  • Front cover
  • Front panel

And other parts I’d never heard of, including

  • Flyleaf
  • Stitching
  • Signatures

These diagrams help explain these terms.

parts of abook2

parts of abook

Then we got crafty.

20170402_131118After the library finally opened, we went inside for the full presentation, including a slide show and everything, where we learned even more about how books are bound and made!

Since it is a book artists badge, the girls also used their broken books and other hardcover books to create book crafts – a great way to recycle books you don’t want to use. If you want some ideas of book crafts, check out one of my old blogs on crafty ways to reuse books. (Now that I have a ton of book guts in a box in my garage, I’m definitely going to tackle one of these.)

book flower craft

Then we continued the cycle of book life.

Lastly, like planting trees to make up for the ones cut down, the girls made their own new books, learning simple binding techniques, including cutting, using a bone folder to crease the pages (more new lingo!), creating covers and proper staple binding. They even had a cute little cutter to curve the book edges.

Even the adults (including me) participated in creating a book and it was really fun! (Plus it made me feel a lot better about destroying those other books. Again, so sorry universe!)

Here are our finished products!

It’s a great activity and you don’t need to be a Girl Scout or a parent of a Girl Scout to do it. Adults, you can do it too. Creating little booklets can make great gifts for people, especially anyone you know who likes to read, draw or journal.

If you love books, the feeling of ripping a book from it’s bindings tears a little part of your soul. But, it’s always interesting to take things apart and see how they work. I’d definitely participate in this activity again. It was extremely educational. Plus, making your own book afterwards feels gratifying, like you’ve set the universe right again.  I’m glad my daughter and friends picked this badge and I got to participate.

(Dear friends and family – you may all be getting “sketchbooks” for your birthdays this year!)