Dear friends of bookmarks, dear IFOB members!
First of all, thank you very much for your comments and emails about the idea of launching a World Bookmark Day. After due and long consideration of the pros and the cons stated in your comments, I came to the conclusion that we should attempt this adventure. I’ll explain the reasons why tackling it seems to be more reasonable for us than just forgetting it.
The main pro for the idea is that a WOBODA is not only consistent with our mission - that is increasing the public awareness of bookmarks - but it is also an excellent means to support this goal. Actually, there is no doubt that a WOBODA would be a wonderful and valuable concept for us, if it would not entail any substantial disadvantages. The cons in your comments concentrated on one major problem: Is a WOBODA not a too big project for our young and small community? Are we able to afford the necessary time and work for such an enterprise without neglecting our current operations? These are serious concerns expressed by several members, indicating that there is a potential risk in this subject, and I am thankful for this feedback.
On a closer look, it was obvious that the cons were associated in most cases with similar world commemorative days, particularly with The World Book Day (WBD). The WBD is indeed a huge project, designated by UNESCO and marked in over 100 countries all over the world. It goes without saying that we cannot handle such a giant project, not even approximately. Therefore, I can fully understand all the objections resulting from this scenario. With the distance of a few weeks, I was able to realise that on the other hand nobody forces us to start a gigantic project. We can start with a small project, small enough not to overstrain our resources.
A further question is if such a small project which we could afford momentarily will have any effect at all. I would say no, not immediately. But it can grow if we are patient. It will grow in step with us, and possibly with a little help from our friends, i.e. groups from outside which might fancy the project and support us. I don’t see any obstacles in starting the WOBODA as a small campaign, just as big as we are ready to invest in it. Of course, as with all new creations we bring into the world we cannot overlook the complete development of this child to the end. It will go its own way and possibly surprise us now and then. Let us get it going.
Let's say a few words about the abbreviation WOBODA which might sound unusual or even funny in your ears. The shortest word for the World Bookmark Day would be WBKD, however it is too similar to WBD with the risk of mixing them up. WBKMD looks a tiny bit more different, however, it is not a catchy one easy to memorise. After some discussion with my editor colleague Laine Farley, we agreed on WOBODA and hope you'll like it.
I have been thinking a while about an appropriate date for the WOBODA. It should be placed in a part of the year where people are not under stress like around Christmas in many countries, and also not on the move as they are in holiday seasons. This would allow everyone to concentrate better on reading and activities associated with the day. The period between the new year and the start of spring seems to be a quiet and suitable season, at least here in Europe where the days are still short and dark and bad weather is around the next corner: ideal conditions to deal with books and bookmarks. Consulting the List of Commemorative Days on Wikipedia showed that a few days in the last week of February were not occupied with other celebration events. Finally, the selection fell on the 25th of February, which is a Saturday in 2017, the date of the very first celebration of the WOBODA.
What do we need for the start? It is of course not enough just to declare a certain day to be World Bookmark Day, it must also be brought to the attention of other people to have an effect. The best way to do that is certainly, if people would talk about it. Sure, I can go and ask other websites and blogs to report about it; however, they are likely to do it if we also offer a nice story and pictures. Obviously, it is our task to create a story about the World Bookmark Day, and that story should better be a compelling one in order to motivate others to adopt and talk about it.
I had not to ponder long about a nice story to promote the WOBODA. We know since the appearance of the IFOB publication No. 1, that bookmarks are as old as the codex form of books we use today, around 2000 years. This new and astonishing fact which the IFOB has brought to light very recently is still unknown for the majority of the public. It should not be difficult to knit an interesting story around this information. The story could look like as follows:
25 February 2017 - WORLD BOOKMARK DAY (WOBODA)
We celebrate the readers' little helper and the ever faithful companion of the books for 2000 years
Bookmarks might have not received much attention yet. They even might have been ignored widely so far. But we believe that there is a different story in which this quiet companion will no longer wait passively to be noticed. The bookmarks will receive attention and approval they deserve with a little help from their friends. Friends who love to use bookmarks while reading, friends who love to collect bookmarks, illustrate and produce bookmarks, who write blogs, articles, and books on bookmarks, friends who take care of them in libraries and museums, and some other unknown friends. Join us in our activities if you think you are a friend of bookmarks. The WOBODA is an excellent occasion to help bookmarks get the recognition they deserve.
We will offer some activities for people to join us in association with the day and in the run-up phase. Do you have ideas about activities for the WOBODA? Please do write your comments, they are welcome!
Please check out also our new page WOBODA where all informations and activities associated with the World Bookmark Day can be seen.
Gangadharan from India has joined us recently and he has a lot to tell already about his bookmarks he is collecting since 2008. He has been registered by the India Book of Records with his collection of 2000 bookmarks in June 2012. Well, from a European point of view it doesn't seem to be an exciting news to have over 2000 bookmarks in one's collection today. Quite a few collectors do have several thousand bookmarks as we know. However, this may reflect a different situation in India, maybe due to a lower presence of bookmarks in this country.
The newspaper Deccan Herald has written an interesting article about Gangadharan and his 'unusual' hobby of collecting bookmarks back in 2012. We are displaying a photo of the article for our readers so that they can enjoy it.
Reading the article, once again some differences to Europe and the western world can be detected. For instance, the statement: "Traditional methods of reading are passe." and "This is an electronic world and reading is limited to old-timers." Possibly, this is showing us that electronic reading devices such as ebooks. tablets, or smart phones do enjoy a high popularity in India which are associated with being up-to-date. However, here in Europe and in North America there is no evidence that reading is losing any attractivity. On the contrary, every year more books are published and thinking of the huge and increasing number of young bloggers who write about their reading experience and book reviews, there can be no worry at all about the future of traditional reading.
“A gentleman and a scholar”—this phrase always comes to mind when I think of fellow collector Don Baldwin although he would surely disavow both terms in his eminently modest way. I first “met” Don in 2009 when he sent a comment about an article on bookmarks I had written for the “On Marking Books” column at the web site BiblioBuffet. He offered to send an example from his collection of a bookmark that was similar to those I had written about, and he also complimented me and editor Lauren Roberts for our contributions to bookmark lore. That little exchange was so typical of Don: always generous with his knowledge, his collection, and his compliments.
Christmas Elf bookmark from the collection of Don Baldwin
As readers of this website know, there are not many of us bookmark collectors, and even in the United States, I know of a dozen at most, so it was thrilling to find a fellow enthusiast. Little did I know that he was probably the most experienced collector among us, as well as one of the most ardent. His daughter, Tama Baldwin, later described him as an inveterate collector who “spent over a half a century collecting, and he collected broadly as well across many types and many centuries.” At the time, Lauren and I, and another collector in Santa Barbara, CA, Alan Irwin, began planning a virtual convention for bookmark collectors, so we asked Don if he would like to participate. His presentation was marvelous and that’s when I realized what a treasure he was for all bookmark collectors.
During the next couple of years after the virtual convention, Don found other ways to showcase his collection and share his knowledge. He was thrilled to have a display at the Iowa City Public Library in 2011. Alas, the newspaper article with photographs is no longer available although there is still a brief mention of the exhibit from the library’s site.
Don also worked on photographing and putting his collection online on Flickr as well as writing a blog. He would write to me every so often about something he noticed in one of my articles and he would always rather sheepishly say that he was still learning how to make better photographs or write more interesting articles. He was well into his 80s by then, so the fact that he was learning all of this technology was impressive, and he really did a great job in spite of his self criticism. His Flickr pages are still visible although it appears that his blog has been removed.
Bookmarks from the collection of Don Baldwin
Don’s generosity was so natural and impressive, especially in this day and age. He would often send me images of bookmarks related to my columns, and once he asked if I would like to have some articles he had collected. That offer resulted in a large envelope of hard-to-find articles from antiques and crafts publications along with some back issues to fill in the few bookmark periodicals that exist. For one column, I interviewed a young woman who was just starting to collect who mentioned she liked bookstore bookmarks, especially those from chain bookstores. Don volunteered to send her a large sample from his collection. Don took great pleasure in paying it forward to other collectors.
I didn’t hear from Don for a while and then in December, 2013, I got a message from his daughter Tama telling me that he had passed away in October of that year. She wanted to know if Lauren and I could help her find a home for his wonderful collection. Indeed, he continued collecting up until his very last days with her helping him review eBay listings while he was in the hospital. She said that Don wanted to keep the collection together and donate it to a library or museum that would be interested in displaying it. As she put it:
“The point I am making is that I am motivated in large part because he cared very dearly about the collection and wished very much for it to have a home where others might come to enjoy it. The show he had at the public library really pleased a lot of people - many of whom have no idea about the history of the bookmark as a physical object. My husband and I also attended a talk he gave on the history of the bookmark and it was nothing less than a marvel to listen to him talk - he helped people fall in love with what he loved.”
Stitched Victorian bookmarks from the collection of Don Baldwin
I had done a little research and thinking about what to do with my own collection, so we exchanged information, and I checked with several colleagues to see where there might be interest—the Smithsonian, New York Public Library, University of Virginia, San Francisco Public Library. Sometimes the largest libraries are the least likely to want this type of collection, although they are often the first ones approached on the assumption that bigger libraries will be preferable. Previously, I had tried to find any library that seemed to have a special interest in bookmarks or even other printed ephemera but had not found too many likely candidates. Then by coincidence, I met a young woman at a library conference who was an archivist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City where Don lived. I mentioned this situation to her and she immediately lit up with interest. I put her in touch with Tama, but then didn’t hear anything further. To help Tama with her pursuit, I gave her a few suggestions that might be useful to others who are thinking of donating their collections.
A group of vintage metal bookmarks with short, open page clips, collection of Don Baldwin
Libraries will be more willing to consider collections that complement those they already have, but also if the collections are organized, stored in reasonably good conditions, and documented. The cost to them is in the processing. Usually they will create a "finding aid" which is a high level description of the collection and the collector. For important collections, they will go into more detail and describe the contents of each container. They must also put the collection into acid free boxes, sleeves, or binders, another expense. It's not required but they very much appreciate donations to cover at least some of these costs.
Much to my delight, I got a message from Tama on February 20, 2016 saying that she had donated the collection to the University of Iowa’s Special Collections. She said, “They are in the process of building a state of the art museum for displays and they say they will eventually exhibit Don's collection. They really wanted everything he collected and they wanted it in exactly the state it was in when he died, right down to his notes and correspondence.” I just checked and found they have already created a rudimentary finding aid or description of the collection : Don Baldwin Bookmark Collection guide. If they process it further, they will add more detail to this description.
Fortunately, Don’s passion, hard work, and generosity, as well as his superb collection, will live on, protected by a library and maybe one day joined by other bookmark collections. To learn more about Don’s characteristics as a gentleman a scholar, see this loving tribute to his life.
I began buying and keeping bookmarks as a student at the university. Most of my friends read, so I thought it would be a sweet thing to have something to randomly give them for a friendly thoughtful gesture. My bookmarks grew in number as I became fonder and fonder of reading. I often explored the small corners of the bookstores where bookmarks usually are displayed and secretly admired the cuteness of these rectangular paper pieces. I felt weird then. Later on, I made some sense of it. I thought maybe my heightened fascination with bookmarks had something to do with my love for books and reading. Reading made me realise the utility of such a simple and inconspicuous piece of a rectangular paper – though they come now in many forms and materials.
And so the collecting began, fourteen years ago – more or less. Some years were slow, some were busy and full of exchanges. It varied. There were times when I used up my allowance and savings paying postal stamps to get my bookmarks delivered to the other side of the world. But it was worth it. I like especially paper bookmarks that showcase libraries, books, authors, artworks, artists, films, and literary events. I’m most fascinated with series, for instance a series of bookmarks featuring works of contemporary painters and puzzle paper bookmarks.
I have collected beautiful bookmarks in exchange. Bookmarks that I wouldn’t find – ever – in any of my travels. They come in envelopes with lovely stamps and simple notes. And that excitement you have when a mail for you arrives and you know it has some wonderful surprises enclosed for you.
The web is an amazing place to look for like-minded people, or should I say people having the same interests as mine. I found a very active Yahoo group of bookmark collectors. I used to participate in their monthly exchanges. I posted a collector’s ad at Mirage Bookmark website. Many of my exchange partners found me there. That experience of collecting and exchanging is just simply happiness. It can be addicting. The right kind of addiction, if you know what I mean. *laughs*
I had so many plans that concern bookmarks – putting up a club, selling in major bookstores here in Manila, writing a bookmark blog, or showing my collection on an online bookmark exhibition. But as I always say, life gets in the way, sadly, and we only have so much energy to burn for all of our plans. Some of them get realised, others don’t. But there’s no closing doors for me.
Life also has its own way to give us what our hearts desire. One day a friend of mine invited me to write a blog about collecting bookmarks fort the website bookbed which is a community platform for book sharing and storytelling. It was an excellent opportunity to come out and communicate to others about the joy this hobby brings. I am doing this job almost for a year now and my blog Bookmarked features also interviews with some of the IFOB members. Selling bookmarks and an exhibition of my collection are on their way. Crossing fingers.
And because I also love taking photos of bookmarks and other things, I can’t end this short entry without showing you some more photos of my bookmarks. Ciao, for now. More to come! Happy collecting!