Industrial design majors give worn-out library materials the ultimate makeover

Public to vote on most creative uses of discarded items during ‘Upcycled’ exhibit at Imagine RIT

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A class of industrial design majors turned old library materials and other reclaimed materials into pieces of furniture.

A class of second-year industrial design majors in RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences is giving old library materials the ultimate makeover—the remarkable results of which will be on display at the Idea Factory inside the Wallace Center during the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival this Saturday, May 4.

The design project is an extension of an already existing partnership between campus sustainability officials and the Wallace Center, requiring the use of discarded library books—and other reclaimed materials—to create attractive pieces of furniture or furnishings that can then be reused or “upcycled” into the library a second time around.

“Every year, libraries all over the country are disposing of thousands of bound journals, periodicals and books—many are available online so you don’t need the hardcopies anymore—and this will be repeated many, many more times in the years to come,” says Gary Molinari, an industrial design instructor who identified the project last year as a way to challenge his students. “Some of the materials used in binding the books, however, are very difficult to recycle. I was very impressed by the students’ proposals for some innovative uses of these old library materials. They’ve created beautiful pieces of furniture.”

The public will have the opportunity to vote on the cleverest creations from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the “Upcycled Furniture Contest” exhibit, which will be located on the first floor of the Wallace Center. Once the public weighs in, Molinari adds, a small committee of industrial design faculty and library staff will select one project among the favorites and present $200 in Tiger Bucks to the winner.

While noting that most of the 15 projects are table-like structures, Molinari says students designed everything from chairs to bookshelves (in an ironic twist) to clocks and even a flower vase by combining the timeworn library materials and supplies they can gather around the industrial design studios. Students were given the opportunity to work individually or in pairs.

They also were strongly encouraged to find alternatives to using caustic adhesives, paints or sealants in their submissions. Library sponsors allowed students to use leftover supplies, noting that it was better to apply the materials rather than discard them, Molinari notes.

“The students have been working very hard, but they’ve had a lot of fun taking these tired books and creatively bringing them back to a fully functional and kind of funky new life,” Molinari adds. “We invite everyone to come by and view these innovative pieces and vote for your favorite!”