BRISTOL, Tenn. – King University's latest art project was unveiled Jan. 19, during an open house event hosted by the staff of the E.W. King Library.
The art project utilizes the risers on the staircases to showcase the spine of well-loved books. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines a riser as the "upright board between two stairs."
"Three or four years ago, a student worker shared a picture on her phone of the riser book spine idea and suggested that we should do this in the library," said Erika Brammer, dean of Library Services at King University. "I thought what a neat thing and never dreamed we would be able to do it here, but [the idea] always stuck in the back of my mind."
During the recent renovation of the library, the stair riser idea came to light. After discussion and positive responses, the project was pursued, first on one set of nine risers.
Brammer approached Joe Strickland and Lee Jones, professors with King's Digital Media Arts & Design program, about the possibility of the risers becoming a DMAD student-led project. "We determined the best class for the project would be the Visual Rhetoric for Digital Media Artists class, which is essentially a beginning graphic design class," said Jones. "I felt this would be a great project for the students; they would have to research the material. We discussed the symbolism of the books; it also allowed the students to have a broader experience through the client – artist relationship."
To determine the list of books that would ultimately make the cut for the riser project, Emily Krug, instructional services librarian, began researching the 100 best books of all time in multiple genres. "To help narrow down the choices, we set criteria such as authors from diverse backgrounds and genres. We ended up with a list of 90 titles from 10 genres from which we would make the final selections. We then narrowed the list to 35 titles. From those we created a survey and shared it with the King community via social media as well as posted an enlarged print survey in the library to garner responses."
"Of the final book selections made, it was key for each title chosen to evoke a response and for them to be recognizable," added Brammer.
From the narrowed list of 10, the Visual Rhetoric students each chose their favorite to create a riser book spine design. "One thing I enjoyed about this project was the close collaboration between the students and the librarians," said Jones. "For the students, the librarians were their client. They were able to work with them, receive feedback, and create something to the clients' specifications, which was an important part of the process for the students. The idea originally came from a student, and now students have brought it to fruition."
"I love the aspect of this project where we were able to act as the client for the students. This was a perfect example of collaboration with students to provide them with real-world experience," commented Brammer.
The nine completed risers include book spine designs by senior Rachel Burrus, senior Taylor Lee, sophomore Qyntia "Q" Parks-Lewis, junior Michelle Surratt, and senior Samantha Taylor. The books spines displayed permanently in the library are (in order of display):
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak
"Pride & Prejudice" by Jane Austen
"The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
"Their work will live on in the library, which is great for the students as designers," said Brammer. "We are hopeful the project will continue in the future, adding more book spine art by King students to other stair risers in the E.W. King Library."