There is a place in Brooklyn where anyone can publish a book. All it takes is a plain sketchbook that costs $25 and some inspiration to fill out the pages.
Williamsburg’s Sketchbook Project is a library that holds 26,000 sketchbooks filled with art projects made by creative souls from 130 countries. On Friday, March 1, the library opened its 2013 collection and began its tour through eight cities in the United States starting with Brooklyn, the collection’s permanent home.
“It’s like a concert tour but with books,” said Chris Heuberger, the head librarian.
The Sketchbook Project, located at North 3rd in Williamsburg, works similarly to a traditional library. Visitors sign up for a library card, they can then browse through the collection by name or topic. But the books don’t leave the storefront library—they can only be viewed in the reading room. Except, once a year when the library’s van packs up the newest sketchbooks and goes on a tour through various cities. This year they’ll visit San Francisco, Portland in Oregon, and Chicago.
On Friday, the library in Williamsburg filled up with artists who came to check out their books that they saw on the shelves for the first time.
“It was a dream for me to publish a book,” said Payal Shah, 27, an art designer who filled her sketchbook with poems, drawings and artistic compositions made with tissue paper.
Shah sat on the bench and gave her book to other people who came to the library. She said she enjoyed looking at their facial expressions while other people sorted through the pages and interacted with her work.
“It’s spectacular,” said Steve Prince, 63, who came to the library from Massachusetts to see his daughter’s sketchbook. “To just grab a book that happens to be by somebody who’s just standing here is just amazing.”
Artists have to obey only one rule in the Sketchbook Project. Their books could be rebounded and recolored, but cannot be thicker than one inch.
“From there is as open ended as you can imagine,” Heuberger said pointing at books with fluorescent covers, sketchbooks that had pages with glued mini-toys, movie tickets, pictures, paintings and drawings of prehistoric creatures.
Besides having a hard copy of the book, the library offers an additional feature – a digitalized book that could be viewed online. The system always notifies the artist when his or her digital book is checked out.
The sketchbook project started in 2006 in Atlanta and moved to Brooklyn in 2009. Since then, the small organization grew to a worldwide community of more than 70,000 artists.
“You just cannot judge a book by its cover,” said the Sketchbook founder, Steven Peterman.