Photo by Emily Buckler
by Danielle Colburn
What makes a book? A cover, sure; binding, fine; and pages, of course. Must the pages be paper, or is there wiggle room? Could they be, say, cheese? (Or, more accurately, cheese food.) Controversies abound with American Cheese, a book (?) of 20 individually-wrapped slices of American singles bound in a yellow cover. It can be found on the shelves of the Art, Architecture & Engineering Library’s Special Collections, stored comfortably in a plastic sandwich container at room temperature, because, as one would hope of a book, it is shelf-stable.
Lactose-intolerant librarian Jamie Vander Broek purchased this book by Ben Denzer, designer of book jackets and logos and the artist behind such interesting creations as the artists’ book press Catalog Press and the popular Instagram account @ice_cream_books.
Vander Broek didn’t realize just how controversial this book would be when she bought it, but it has stirred up emotions. People had plenty of questions to ask, including, “Is someone the author of the cheese book? What is its subject? Is it about cheese if it is cheese?”
She was happy to acquire this artists’ book, regardless of, or maybe even because of, the mixed reactions. Her job is to create a connection between students, faculty, and the library. Artists’ books, which are art in the form of books, or vice versa, “are perfect for this because they represent a sweet spot between the things the students and faculty make (art, design) and the things the library has (books, information).” And whether the reactions are positive or negative, it means that people have opinions, that they feel something for the book. Vander Broek, who says it her job to engender interest in and passion for the library and what it holds, considers this a job well done.