The Library of Re-Claimed Books

Last month, visual artist Noriko Suzuki-Bosco, who is currently undertaking a practice-based PhD study at Winchester School of Art, took part in Turn the Page 2018 artists book fair in Norwich with her social art project, Library of Re-Claimed Books. Noriko also works part-time in the library at Winchester School of Art and has recently become the Library’s first Artist in Residence. She describes her project in the blog post below.


Turn the Page 2018 in The Forum, Norwich

Turn the Page is an annual artists book fair that takes place in the large foyer area of The Forum building in Norwich. The Forum is home to the Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Library, a fitting backdrop for the art event that showcases artworks in book form. This year, a symposium was organised as an additional feature of the book fair to offer opportunities to conceptualise and to discuss various aspects of artists books. Ten speakers took part in the inaugural symposium with Tom Sowden and Rosie Sherwood as keynote speakers. Tom and Rosie are both well known and well respected figures in the world of artists books. The presentations were loosely grouped into two themes: collaboration and place/mapping. I was lucky enough to take part in both the symposium and the book fair to introduce my library focused social art project, the Library of Re-Claimed Books.

The Library of Re-Claimed Books is a collection of altered ex-library books, which started as an endeavour to give new lease of life back to ‘dead’ objects. It has now evolved into a social art project involving different libraries and the public. The art project acts as one of my case studies for my practice-based PhD research, exploring the interstice of the library and social art practice through participatory art projects that situate the library as actual and imagined sites of new forms of social interaction. My library focused social art projects offer situations that allow for collective making, expanded experiences of ‘reading’, and opportunities for sharing to explore social relations that are underpinned by ideas around cooperation rather than reciprocal obligation.

As a social art project, anyone can take part in the Library of Re-Claimed Books by altering an ex-library book. For some, the process of altering a book may seem like acts of violence and sacrilege, but for many, it offers an opportunity for the readers to express visually their power to ‘interpret, associate and transform their reading’ (Manguel, 2006, p.91). An altered book can also ask questions as to how value becomes ‘re-assigned’ to redundant objects. Artist Simryn Gill has created artworks using found objects, such as silver cutlery for her art installation, Forking Tongues (1992). Like Gill, who is interested in new materiality emerging through the process of the object being discarded and found again, the Library of Re-Claimed Books attempts to see how books become freed from their particular histories to offer ‘reading’ space for new stories, experiences, and interpretations to be interwoven between the pages of the books. Furthermore, by taking the books into the public sphere, the books and the new stories become shared with the wider public opening up new cultural, discursive, and social spaces.

Examples of altered books and the library stamp

The Library of Re-Claimed Books also reference processes that belong to the traditional library system such as cataloguing. The altered books are currently catalogued under three different categories: Intervention (I), Collaged (C), and Boxed (B). The categories focus on how the books were altered and will increase as different forms of alteration are introduced into the collection. The art project also use the ‘borrowing and lending’ transaction as a way to distribute the books. This is to create a clear guideline that the ex-library books that are offered to the visitors are not being given away but are ‘on loan’ and that the books need to be returned to the library once altered. The return date is individually decided depending on how long the participant needs to alter the book. There is a strong performative element too where I act out the role of the librarian by wearing an apron with a librarian badge and using library related props, such as a date slip, a date stamp, and a reader’s ticket. The props aim to instil a sense of participation and ownership for the participants taking part in the project.

Library related props

The Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Library donated over fifty withdrawn books to be used for my project at the Turn the Page artists book fair. The involvement of the local library and the use of their withdrawn books is an important aspect of the project that provides ‘real’ context; making us reflect on the meaning and role of the libraries and their books that are currently facing multitude of challenges and experiencing many changes. Currently there are around seventy books ‘on loan’ from the library and the return date ranges from one month to one year. I am excited to see how this social art project develops and how the idea of the relational in library spaces can be expanded through the use of altered books.

If you would like to take part in the project, please contact me via the website or email me on

If you would like to view altered books in the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art, please email

Noriko Suzuki-Bosco


Further reading:

Manguel. A. (2006) The Library at Night. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Storer, R. (ed.) (2008) Simryn Gill. Köln: Verlagder Buchhandlung.