Thread Library at the Iowa City Public Library

If you have been on the 2nd floor of the library lately and been all the way back to the blue North wall, you may have had the opportunity to checkout one of the most unique displays to be hosted at the Iowa City Public Library. This display, or exhibition, is the work of MFA student in Book Arts at the University of Iowa India Johnson, and is Thread Library. This library within our library is a collection of threads, with an accompanying card catalog.

Thread Library

In the words of the creator, "The idea for the piece sprung from a program at the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, which is called 'Hiloteca' (which I loosely translate as 'Thread Library.') It is a service which provides quality linen and cotton embroidery thread to the public at-cost, given the high amount of textile production in the region by hand, and the difficulty of obtaining certain quality materials there. The first catalog card in the set corresponds to some thread I bought when I was there this summer."

The first phase of Thread Library will be up until February 15th during which time a founding collection of thread samples, along with their accompanying catalog cards, and a donation box can be seen on the 2nd floor of the Iowa City Public Library's North Wall display space. The samples interpret the word ‘thread’ in a couple of different ways. For example, one sample includes the leftovers of three kinds of thread given to the artist by her mother in order to repair different pieces of clothing knitted for her. In contrast, another sample is a ball of “yarn” which is made from pages of a book the artist cut up and spliced together--referring to the concept of a ‘literary thread’.

literary thread

The catalog cards are index cards typed on a typewriter, which include basic information about each thread, such as a title and subtitle (if available), author, summary, and date. Catalog records will also indicate when each thread was acquired for the collection, as well as who donated it, and a ‘place of publication’ (a geographic location with which the thread is most strongly associated). Finally, the catalog card will classify each thread with a series of ‘subject headings.’

catalog card for thread

The donation box encourages patrons to donate a thread sample to the collections of the Thread Library. The box is made out of clear plastic, so that as donations accumulate, they make a visible contribution to the initial display. Forms are available so patrons may provide information about their threads.

donation box

On February 15h Thread Library will be taken down and go in to the 2nd phase, cataloging. At this point the donations that have been received will then be added to the collection. On March 15th the newly cataloged threads as well as the founding collection will go on display on the North Wall as well as the box of catalog cards which viewers can touch and look through. This 3rd and final phase will remain up until April 15th.

thread library snap shot

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