The Afterlife of a DNL Dust Jacket

Every time the library adds a new physical book  to the collection, the dust jacket (also called a book jacket, dust wrapper, or dust cover) is removed. This is a standard practice at many academic libraries.  So, what happens to the dust jacket? Many libraries discard or recycle them in the trash. Not the DiMenna-Nyselius Library.

For the past year library catalogers have been accumulating the dust jackets and contacting Professor Jo Yarrington, Professor of Visual & Performing Arts at Fairfield University. Professor Yarrington ships the packed box of dust jackets (or several boxes) to an artist in St. Louis, MO, who incorporates them into his work. The artist is Buzz Spector.

According to the artist's bio, Buzz Spector's work "makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and object, and is concerned with relationships between public history, individual memory, and perception". Spector's artwork has been shown in such museums as the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Writers as others 2, 2014, collaged dust jacket elements on handmade paper, 8.5 x 8.5 inches. Image from Marsha Mateyka Gallery.

You might ask, what is so fascinating about a dust jacket? In a 2015 lecture entitled "Dust Jacket Expressionism" at Mount St. Mary's University Spector highlighted their aesthetic value and argued that the dust jacket is one of the most crucial parts of selling and marketing the book. The cover, to the plot blurb, author’s biography and picture must be presented in a way that attracts readers and persuades them to purchase the book. Some of these elements might be cut and arranged into collages, or text placement could turn into an original piece of poetry. Spector stated “I’m destroying the book in the course of making my work, and proposing that the artifact has value of a different order than the value of the writing.”

The DiMenna-Nyselius Library is not the only library providing dust jackets. Buzz Spector's network of libraries is vast which means he has a wide range of materials to work with.

Students in Professor Yarrington's SA 136: Investigating Text & Image classes gather inspiration from Spector and other artists such as Doug Beube and Brian Dettmer to create their own book works. The students are often told about the dust jacket recycling efforts (the library and faculty member as collaborator with the art world), which surprises and intrigues them.

About the Author 4, 2016
collaged dust jacket elements
on handmade paper,
8.5" x 8.5". Image from Zolla/Liberman Gallery
Tower, 2016
collaged dust jacket elements
on handmade paper with acrylic,
52" x 38". Image from Zolla/Liberman Gallery