The Story of The Desk
It started in 2010 with an internet posting making the rounds among library fans around the world. It was a picture of a desk made of books at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. It was bounced around the in boxes at the Fond du Lac Public Library and eventually shared on the library’s Facebook page.
Everyone said, “cool,” and left it at that.
But when the plans for the library’s new branch – FDLPL Express – began to firm up, the desk idea re-emerged. Wouldn’t it be something to replicate that Dutch contraption right here? Library staff certainly had the raw material – there’s a steady stream of books coming out of the collection to make space for the new and popular – but it didn’t have the know-how. Queries to Delft University went unanswered. To make this happen, the library needed help.
The first person contacted was local architect Tom Meiklejohn, who has had a practice in Fond du Lac for 17 years. After listening to the library’s idea, Meiklejohn literally went to the drawing board. He worked with his intern, Alyssa Marie Leystra, to design a structure that would be the framework of a working, functional circulation desk yet accommodate an exterior mosaic of books. (Photo above shows Leystra and Meiklejohn in his offices.)
“This was really a fun project to pull together for the library’s new branch,” Meiklejohn said. “I enjoyed having the opportunity to work with incredibility talented local artisans.”
The library also reached out to Fond du Lac Visual Arts, the professional artists’ collaborative that curates exhibits at the library’s gallery. The library knew it would take an artistic sensibility to create something beautiful from a pile of books. Two members, Susan Fiebig and Trista Holz, stepped forward.
Once the framework design was finalized, Meiklejohn needed a builder. Entreaties by enthusiastic – and wildly unskilled – librarians aside, Meiklejohn knew the project needed real professionals to pull it off. He contacted Lindsey Bovinet, CEO and president of Interior Systems, Inc., a Fond du Lac designer and manufacturer of furnishings for restaurants, retail businesses and schools. Most likely, if you’ve been to a McDonald’s in Paris, you’ve seen Interior Systems’ work.
Bovinet listened to the idea, reviewed the drawings and jumped in with both feet.
“Our work can be seen in facilities all over the world, but when we get a chance to help on a local project in our own hometown, we get very excited,” said Bovinet.
Meiklejohn also reached out to Axel Mendez, president, and Paco de la Torre, business development, of AMC Countertops. Meiklejohn’s design suggested replacing the glass top with a sturdier surface. Mendez and de la Torre selected a piece of granite from their storeroom. With undertones of lavender, charcoal and cream, it was a piece of stone neutral enough to work with the multicolored desk yet flat-out gorgeous on its own. (Photo above from the AMC Countertops warehouse shows, from left, de la Torre; Rodrigo Peralta, shop manager; and Mendez with the granite selected for the Express desk.)
“All of the employees here at AMC Countertops truly enjoy giving back to the community,” de la Torre said. “It’s an honor to be able to help out whenever possible. We hope that this beautiful granite top will be a blessing to the Fond du Lac Library and the Fond du Lac community for many years to come.”
Bovinet got to work and mobilized his team. He enlisted the help of Scott Wustrack, a project manager, and Gary Franklin at the Interior Systems production facility on Rolling Meadows Drive. In a short time, the 14-foot-long, 3-foot-wide shell was ready for the puzzle-piecing work of the book exterior.
Fiebig and Holz had taken about three days in a cramped library closet to sort through hundreds of books. They looked for clever titles, vivid jacket colors and books with eye-catching covers. In the end, more than 30 boxes of their selections were hauled over to Interior Systems. There, the books were whittled down further to several dozen. Early on, the three decided to throw out the Dutch-library example of turning the book spines to the interior and showing mostly white pages. They wanted to showcase beautiful, sometimes old-fashioned, book typography and design.
But it was tedious work. Joined by Bovinet, himself a successful sculptor, the three had to piece together a flat exterior from a pile of mismatched pieces. They cut books to size to fit odd holes. Whole sections had to be dismantled and started over to get an interesting cover front and center. Pieces refused to fit together nicely. Each book was screwed in place – a detail insisted upon by Bovinet, who knew about creating sturdy furnishings. The artists took more than a week, coming in at odd hours, to finish. (Photo above shows, from left, Bovinet, Fiebig and Holz beginning the book-piecing work.)
“This was a great project to work on from conception to completion,” said Fiebig. “As a book enthusiast, I treasured the fact that we were saving books and upcycling them into art. Working with Lindsey Bovinet and Trista Holz as a team was very rewarding. Without Lindsey’s craftsmanship and expertise, this would not have gone so smoothly. I am very proud of the desk and consider it one of my best works of art.”
Finally, in a driving late-October rain, the desk – sans top – was moved in one piece to the library branch. A few days later, workers from AMC Countertops installed the 800-pound granite top. All together, the desk weighs more than 1,600 pounds.
“It’s not going anywhere,” said library Director Ken Hall, contentedly.
“What started as a what-if pipe dream turned very quickly into a seriously wonderful art piece,” Hall said. “I cannot express enough gratitude to the team. Each person played an integral part in creating something that just knocks your socks off. We had the desk uncovered for a while when the granite was installed. Construction workers would walk by, do a double-take and just say, ‘Wow.’ It was fun to watch.”
He knows the desk will help get people to the new Express branch.
“They’ll come for the desk and maybe stay long enough to browse through the collection,” Hall said.
FDLPL Express is open five days a week: Mondays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.