Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bookmarks, Not the Electronic Kind

Enter the word "bookmark" into a search engine and you will get lots of links to the noun and verb as related to computers, meaning: a list of favorite website addresses and the act of saving this list. Well, I'm all for such lists, but what about the other kind of bookmark, the original bookmark, the lovely paper or card stock gizmo that marks a reader's place in a book? I'm still not over loosing the book card pockets in library books since that is where I used to park my bookmark when I was reading the book, thank you very much. But book card pockets were phased out of book processing at most libraries when date due cards became obsolete due to the use of computerized receipts.

I have a small collection of bookmarks stashed here and there all over the house, wherever I might need one, next to reading hangouts and in my nightstand. Some are quite worn but I hold onto them as if they were old friends. They have been with me on many journeys through the world of words. I gathered some favorite bookmarks for the photo above. On the left in screaming neon orange and lime green, the Queen of Hearts shouts "READ ... or off with your head!", an American Library Association bookmark. How about the Garfield bookmark with this caption" Does your mother know you're reading this stuff?" I have some Paul Goble bookmarks perfectly preserved since the late 1970s, little slices of his Caldecott Award winning artwork depicting Native American legends. Longfellow gets quoted on a sweet Mary Engelbreit bookmark: "The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books."

I researched the history of bookmarks and learned they first came into use during the medieval period. Queen Elizabeth I was known to be a bookmark user. Bookmarkers, as they were also called, began to be mass produced in the 1860s, usually made of silk, ribbon or leather. The Victorians loved giving and getting bookmarks. Paper and card stock bookmarks became widely used by the end of the nineteenth century as book ownership became more commonplace. A Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention is planned for February 2010. There is also a Flickr group for vintage bookmarks. I am encouraged that interest in bookmarks runs high.

Librarians love bookmarks for the opportunity they pose to plug books, reading lists or their library services. They are an inexpensive giveaway. Kids love making bookmarks. It's fun to design them yourself and there are lots of templates available online. Long live bookmarks and the books they dwell in!

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