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Paper-wrapped books at U of A Libraries highlight Indigenous authors

Over 400 books, wrapped in brown paper and twine, are being displayed across eight library locations

For students who’ve ever felt intimidated by picking up a new book to read, the University of Alberta Libraries has them covered.

The “Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” event enters its third year at U of A Libraries, where books by authors from marginalized groups are wrapped in brown paper and twine, with only a brief list of keywords to illustrate what the book is about. This year, all the books are themed by Indigenous authors.

The library event runs from October 29 to November 9, ending just before the fall reading week. The event has over 400 books in its collection, spread out across eight U of A libraries, including Rutherford, Cameron, Bibliothèque Saint-Jean, and Augustana.

Amy Southgate, a public services assistant at Rutherford Library, is leading the event after taking it over last year. The library event first began in February 2017 during Black History Month and was started by Nicole Loroff, a previous resident librarian.

“It was just going to be a wrapped-book display, because that’s what a lot of other libraries do often around Valentine’s Day, like a blind date with a book,” Southgate said. “Because February was also Black History Month, we decided to do a theme and change it to ‘Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover,’ because that had a better connotation with marginalized groups.”

Southgate said the main objective of the event is to “shed light on underrepresented groups” and that the concealment of the book’s cover is meant to symbolize the marginalization of the authors represented.

“We’re trying to take away the things that they might judge it by, and just getting to the heart of what the book is about, to break down barriers in that way,” she said

However, Southgate reassures library-goers that the books are not meant to be serious academic readings.

“The books that are included are all what we would refer to as leisure reading, so like fiction, poetry, memoirs, graphic novels, anything you would read for fun,” she said.

In disguising the theme of the books, Southgate hopes more people get exposed to diverse authors and topics by chance.

“I am hoping that somebody has kind of a little bit of an ‘aha’ moment, and the feedback that we’ve had has been like that,” Southgate said. “People have said ‘Yeah, I would’ve never picked this up’ or ‘I had no idea that people of this marginalized group had this experience.’”

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