Finding beauty in books

Friends of the Library vice president transforms old volumes into works of art

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
A friend of the library has found a way to turn trash into treasure after uncovering a new use for old books.
Vandy Roadifer, vice president of Friends of the Library, is selling carved vintage book art using Reader’s Digest condensed books that have striking covers.
“It was trash, basically,” she said. “They were going to throw them away.”
The books were stacked two-deep on every shelf at the senior center’s bookstore to prevent the front-facing books from getting pushed back, she explained. When the center reopened June 1 following the COVID-19 shutdown, the bookstore’s coordinator decided to get rid of them.

VANDY ROADIFER displays a selection of some vintage carved books for sale through Friends of the Library.

Roadifer collected the titles into 30 boxes – which, by the way, aren’t all of them – and began tearing out pages for recycling when she stopped herself.
“I said (to myself), ‘The covers are too pretty; we can’t just destroy them and recycle them,’” she said. “The ones from the ’50s and ’60s are just amazing.”
Then she saw a picture online of old books carved into letters, and decided to give that idea a try. Her father, Dean Roadifer, used his scroll saw to make them, and the Friends put the finished pieces out for sale at a Saturday Market booth.
Soon the two began designing animals and other shapes: pigs, cats, elephants, wolves, bunnies, foxes, horses and an ampersand.
“We’re replacing the dolphin and eagle (our least popular designs) with a heart and a dog,” Vandy Roadifer added.

DEAN ROADIFER uses a scroll saw to carve an animal design from a vintage Reader’s Digest condensed edition, the basis for the carved-books project. Photo courtesy of Vandy Roadifer

The Friends are introducing eight new designs this month, including such mythical creatures as dragons, mermaids, unicorns and fairies, plus a limited holiday edition featuring angels, deer, teddy bears and cardinals.
They sell for $10 each, or two for $15. To date, Friends has sold 112 carved books totaling $865, with 18 more on order, since July 3. Local artist Pat Walker has stepped in to help.
Before the pandemic closed the Senior Center, its bookstore brought in funds for Friends, which hosted monthly book sales featuring tables filled with titles that usually remain in storage. Average pre-pandemic sales would raise about $270 to $300 a month. Proceeds benefit programs and projects at the Lebanon Public Library.
Roadifer began volunteering at the library in 2013 and joined Friends in 2019. After the Senior Center’s 2020 shutdown, the nonprofit’s president, vice president and secretary all retired, leaving it “desperate for officers,” Roadifer said. So she stepped into the VP position and began introducing ideas to replace lost funding.
“I’m really good with ideas, and coming up with ideas and being creative,” she said.

VANDY shows examples of some blind date books, one of her ideas to help raise funds for the library.

Her first idea was a silent auction, which will take place at the library in October. Her second was “blind date with a book,” which involves wrapping a book in brown paper and attaching a story summary to its cover.
“Then you sell them like this, so people can’t judge a book by its cover,” Roadifer explained. “You’re getting kind of a mystery and a book.”
Looking forward, she hopes to host full sales four times a year and offer smaller, genre-based sales, as well. That’s because the store’s too small to accommodate the volume Friends has in storage.
To purchase a vintage carved book, patrons may fill out an order form at the Lebanon Public Library, 55 Academy St., or call (541) 730-3602. Anyone interested in volunteering or becoming a Friends of the Library member may call, or email [email protected].
“We always need new members and volunteers,” Roadifer said. “We can always find something for people to do.”