Good afternoon, friends! Today we have a special treat for you. We were so pumped when we saw Preservation Librarian Craig Fansler tweet a photo of the MR. PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE exhibit at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library that we had to do more than just re-tweet it. We immediately wrote to Craig (the clear leader of the "Unofficial Robin Sloan Fan Club" at ZSR Library) and asked him our most burning questions about how this awesome display came to be:
Macmillan Library: How did you (or the fan club) come up with the idea for the display?
Craig Fansler: First came the book. One person told another about MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE and pretty soon, we were discussing it with each other as we worked around the library like a mobile book club. A few of us who liked this book very much began throwing this exhibit idea around. I am responsible for exhibits in our library, so that was a natural fit for me to pursue with my co-conspirators’ help.
As Preservation Librarian at ZSR Library, the book has a lot of things I love in it: books, bookstores, the history of printing and typography. Throw in some secret society, a Hogwarts Special Pizza (hold the shrooms) and Google Books and I’m hooked. I first heard about MR. PENUMBRA from my good friend, our Web Librarian. He said “I think you’d like this book—-it has printing books and typography in it.” That really got my interest, so I purchased the book on Audible. I listened to it once, twice. I loaned my iPod to our Access Archivist and our group grew. Then I noticed our Scholarly Communications Librarian was mentioning MR. PENUMBRA on Facebook with nothing but superlatives (5 stars on Goodreads). As recently as last week, one of our Associate Deans and our Head of Collection Management mentioned she was reading MR. PENUMBRA. I listened to Ajax Penumbra’s exploits the third time with my wife and her best friend on a trip out west this summer and they loved it. Our “fan club” isn’t official, but I’d say it is a grassroots support group for Ajax Penumbra, Clay Jannon and Aldus Manutius.
ML: How long did the exhibit take to put together? Were there any ideas that were discarded or any other interesting bits in the creative process we should know about?
CF: I had made some large oversized “books” a few years ago for a community-reading project (On the Same Page) and decided to use one of those oversized books to make a large version of MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE for the exhibit. That took a few hours, and the remaining elements of the exhibit came together easily by including a synopsis of the book, and information from reviews by other readers and a podcast reading by Robin Sloan. I added the open hands on the book motif that was on MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE window by blowing up a copy of it and using a glass marker to add it to the glass on the exhibit case.
ML: What kind of feedback have you received from it?
CF: So far, the feedback has been positive.
ML: Tell us about the “Unofficial Robin Sloan Fan Club.” Are there secret meetings?
CL: You know, it would be wonderful for everyone who had read the book to put on black robes and form a circle in our Special Collections Reading Room.
I encourage libraries and librarians to both read and feature this book in their work. It is the kind of book that is both current and historical and it really generates discussion. It has so much to offer.
We agree. MR. PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE is available in paperback on Sept. 24 from Picador.