Be Kind to Books Club

The following post is by Lucy Jakub, one of the 36 college students who participated in the Library of Congress 2015 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program. Jakub is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in creative nonfiction at Columbia University. Her independent work in graphic design led her to her internship with the Library’s Conservation Division, making posters and other outreach materials that advocate care and respect for books and library collections.

"A book mark would be better!" Poster by Arlington Gregg, between 1936 and 1940. Prints and Photographs Division.

“A book mark would be better!” Poster by Arlington Gregg, between 1936 and 1940. Prints and Photographs Division.

"Don't Dog-Ear. Use a Bookmark1" Poster by Lucy Jakub, 2015.

“Don’t Dog-Ear. Use a Bookmark!” Poster by Lucy Jakub, 2015.

My job this summer has been to design posters that advocate book preservation for schools and libraries. I was inspired by the work of Works Project Administration artist Arlington Gregg, whose poster series, in simple language and bold graphics, outlined the don’ts of book handling in the 1930s. I decided to make an updated series conveying the same messages in a fresh but reverential style. Each of my designs features a literary character from the public domain, recruited to teach kids how to take care of their books: Dracula cautions against exposing paper to the sun. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West demonstrate water damage.

For artists scouring the public domain for free material, the Library’s digitized collections are a gold mine. Finding public domain images that are still instantly recognizable in today’s culture, however, can be a challenge. Even the greatest hits are sometimes fuzzy to contemporary children. There are sure to be some people asking why Dorothy’s shoe on my poster is silver and not red. When Disney MGM filmed the “Wizard of Oz,” they changed L. Frank Baum’s silver shoes to ruby so they would sparkle in Technicolor. So though Disney MGM cannot own a copyright on Baum’s character, they own the iconic ruby slippers.

In the interest of trying to make my posters a bit more contemporary, I decided to pursue a license for a character still under copyright. I went for my personal favorite: the Amazing Spider-man. The Library’s collections include the original art for Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker’s comic debut. I wanted to put him on a poster telling kids not to touch their books with “sticky fingers.”

“If any super hero is suited to encourage children to read and care for books, it is Peter Parker, super-nerd and role model for us all,” I wrote to Marvel Comics.

Unfortunately, Marvel said no and wished me well. Disappointed but not to be deterred, I set my sights on Tarzan, whose disregard for cleanliness would make him a good fit for my poster: swings from a vine, half man half beast. I initially assumed Tarzan was in the public domain and free for artists to use because “Tarzan of the Apes” was published by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1914, and its copyright has expired.

Though the book is in the public domain now, Burroughs incorporated himself in 1923. His name and all his major characters are trademarked and owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs Incorporated to this day.BKBC_TARZAN

Trademarks are a little different from copyrights. A trademark essentially serves as a symbol for a commodity. It must be renewed every 10 years but in theory can exist in perpetuity as long as it is continually renewed. A copyright, on the other hand, has an expiration date past which it cannot be owned by an individual or a corporation (right now, the term is 70 years after the death of the author).

Working with Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. was a positive experience. They were excited about being part of my project and were accommodating to the Library’s limited resources. They were giving me Tarzan, but I was giving them something, too: a highly visible and positive platform for their character.

All five of the “Be Kind To Books Club” posters will soon be freely available to download and print from the Library’s website at

The Wandering Sculpture of a Thirsty POEt: A Look into Copyright Archives

The following is a post written by Gina Apone, one of 36 college students who spent the last two months working at the Library as part of the 2015 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program. Apone currently attends Michigan State University pursuing a dual degree in Pre-Law and Professional Writing with a minor in Public Relations. […]

Pics of the Week: Step Right Up, Folks!

Today we bring you a trio of images from this week’s display of items found in the Library’s collections by our Library of Congress Junior Fellows–36 interns from around the nation who dig through our collections during their 10-week stays and showcase their findings at summer’s end. Chosen each year through a competitive program, the […]

The Art of Acquisition

(The following is a feature story in the July/August 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. The story was written by Jennifer Gavin, a senior public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications. Joseph Puccio, the Library’s collection development officer, contributed to this story. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) The […]

Page From the Past: A Show About Nothing

When “The Seinfeld Chronicles” first aired on NBC on July 5, 1989, no one could have predicted that the “show about nothing” would become a cultural phenomenon. Inspired by real-life people and events, the show followed the life of a stand-up comedian and his friends. The pilot episode (pictured left), written by show creators Jerry […]

Happy 215th Anniversary Library of Congress!

A Message from the Librarian Today, on the Library of Congress’s 215th anniversary, I want especially to congratulate the Library’s extraordinary staff for their work in building this amazing, one-of-a-kind institution. I am, and always will be, deeply grateful for all they do. The heart and soul of this great library always has been its […]

A-B-C … Easy as One, Two, Three

On Oct. 16, 1758, Noah Webster, the “Father of American Scholarship and Education” was born. Lexicographers everywhere celebrate his contributions on his birthday, also known as “Dictionary Day.” As a young, rural Connecticut teacher, he used his own money to publish his first speller in 1783. Reissued throughout the 19th century, the 1829 “Blue Back […]

Mark Twain & Copyright

(The following is an article written by Harry Katz in the September-October 2014 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Katz is a former curator in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division and author of a new Library publication, “Mark Twain’s America.”)  Samuel Clemens’ fight for the intellectual property rights to Mark Twain’s works helped protect […]

Junior Fellows Show Off Summer Finds

(The following is an article written by Rosemary Girard, intern in the Library of Congress Office of Communications, for the Library staff newsletter, The Gazette.) After weeks of researching, curating and unearthing some of the Library of Congress’s millions of artifacts, members of the Junior Fellows Program had a chance to present their most interesting […]

Rare Map on Display at Library Scored Some “Firsts”

(The following is a guest post by Wendi A. Maloney, writer-editor in the U.S. Copyright Office.) Engraver Abel Buell “came out of nowhere,” at least in terms of cartography, when he printed a United States map in 1784. “He’d never done a map before,” says Edward Redmond of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. Nonetheless, […]