Research Library Bookends

Introduction: Research Library Bookends

About: I'm an English teacher and former Instructables staff member.

When I am not binding ebooks for Instructables, I can be found at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency library in Oakland. I am helping them get their archives in order and to digitize some stuff, but mostly I make sure that everyone feels comfortable throwing out the duplicate copies of "The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency" and "Crime and Delinquency" and "Criminal Justice Statistics 1992". (For those of you interested in how research helps fight poverty, which in turn helps fight crime, check out the following light reading from the NCCD president:

I figured that I could bring these two worlds together with a DIY library project. NCCD will get some sweet custom bookends, and librarians all over the world will thrill at the opportunity to upcycle those ubiquitous metal bookends that never match. Win-win, folks.

The design challenge was this: the NCCD library is in a dim hallway. The organization does prison and child protective services research with the aim of reforming the criminal justice system (for the better, as you'd assume, but the name of the organization somewhat ambiguously selected "on" as the preposition for self-description.) I have been weeding their collection, so there is some empty space on their shelves just waiting for some pizzazz. Well, I'll bring some pizzazz. I'll bring pizzazz in a recycled plastic bag, possibly double-bagged if I am concerned that the pizzazz has sharp corners.

My first idea was to dress a Barbie or some other doll in stereotypical black and white striped prison outfits, perhaps with a ball and chain added for effect. Then glue the doll to a bent metal bookend so it looks as though the doll is being weighed down by the pressure of a shelf full of delinquency research. But that didn't really send the right message. I need something sober and serious and brightly colored without seeming gaudy. (Gaudy is hard to pull off when you're interviewing parolees about recidivism and drug abuse.)

Because the library is mostly used as a backdrop for photo ops*, I thought I could brighten it up with a set of white bookends spelling out NCCD. Spread over four shelves, these will stand out without being unduly showy. Subdued but apparent. Like a stifled sneeze that might take place whilst digging through typewritten grant proposals submitted during the Carter administration. The white should be bright enough to draw attention to the shelves, and, who knows, maybe someone will be sufficiently enticed to pick up a volume for a purpose other than raising their monitor to an ergonomically-appropriate level.

*Yeah. I know. We're working on it.

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Step 1: Gather Materials

  • craft store letters (2 per bookend, but the bookend will support as many as six if you want to stack 'em on there)
  • metal bookends
  • sandpaper
  • a place to spray paint
  • Loctite Power Grab Heavy Duty
  • Spray paint (I went with a gloss white, but this will work with any color.)
  • caulking gun
  • ruler/measuring tape
  • pencil/marker

Step 2: The Letters

Before you sand your letters, you will probably need to remove the UPC sticker. For some reason, these stickers were particularly sticky. If a little bit of sticker stays stuck, don't panic. The sandpaper will take care of any bits of adhesive left behind.

Lightly sand your letters so that the spray paint will stick better. Don't forget the inside edges and the divot between the letter itself and the wooden serif.

After your letters are sanded, brush them off with a towel to remove any dust. Then spray paint them. Follow the directions on the side of the can. Smooth sweeps, even coating, ventilated area, do not eat, etc. Because I live in a goofy tenth-floor apartment, I had to spray paint on a windy balcony. To protect the sliding glass door and my trouser cuffs, I used a cardboard box unwittingly donated by the lovely occupants of 825 to contain the spray.

Step 3: Stick Things Together

Glue your letters together sandwich-style. Dab a bit of Power Grab every few inches along the letter then squeeze them together. Weight them down (or use some clamps, a vise, whatever) so that the two pieces fit together snugly. Once each pair of letters has had some time to set up to the point they can be handled, you may try sticking them to the metal bookend.

I found that there was only one good point of contact along the bookend for each letter. The C and D are too round for the two points of contact that the N had. I loaded up that area with a generous helping of Loctite to make sure that the letters stay attached. (Otherwise, we're back to the original bookends, which is no good.) If I were to give this another go, I would use some of the Loctite Epoxy for this particular task. The letters are pretty much permanently stuck together, but I am slightly concerned about the wood-metal bond especially since I painted before gluing.

Step 4: Finish Up

After the glue has had time to cure, go ahead and give each piece another coat of spray paint. Wait and repeat as necessary. I decided at the last second that my letters weren't glossy enough with just the spray paint, so I hit them with a coat of clear acrylic too. Now they are white and shiny.

That's pretty much the last step. But there's one more bonus step that you're not going to want to skip, although it is likely beyond the purview of this instructable: put the letters in your library. They look best in their natural literary habitat. (Unfortunately, my letters are still a little too wet to take into the research library until next week, so for now they are representing for the NCCD in the fiction section of my Ikea shelves.)

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    2 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 3

    Weird. My school library and about everyone else I know uses those bookends the opposite way. The long end goes under the books, not the short one.
    (not sure if that made sense)


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    That definitely makes sense. The letters are too big to fit on the narrow ledge, so I had to flip them around. If I were to do this project again, I'd use an epoxy to hold the letter in place so it didn't need quite so much overhang onto the bit of the bookend that slides beneath the books. These won't hold up your dictionaries or any other heavy reference books, but they look good on the shelves. Form over function, in this case.