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Book design award winners will be displayed at the Holland College Library, Charlottetown

The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada 2016 award winners will be on display at the Holland College Library, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, until the end of September.

You can see the full list of winners here. Continue Reading…

Judith Poirier: Type in Multiple Dimensions

By Marlene Chan

Judith Poirier has been selected as one of three judges for the upcoming competition of the Alcuin Society for Excellence in Book Design in Canada to be held in March 2017 for books published in 2016. She will deliver a public lecture in Vancouver about her work and working process, ‘Type in Multiple Dimensions’, on March 16th. Continue Reading…

Reserve your spot for the Toronto edition of the Alcuin Book Design Awards!

The Toronto award ceremony for the Alcuin Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada will be held on October 3, 2016. The event will include a keynote talk by designer Michael Solomon, the presentation of the awards, and an excellent sit-down dinner. The event will open at 5:30 pm for a chance to view the award-winning books, and dinner will follow at 6:30 pm.

Continue Reading…

Judging you by your favourite cover

Much like what your favourite colour says about you, or your favourite food, or your favourite toothpaste, the internet provides the answer to the question: “What does your favourite book says about you?” From insightful to silly, a simple search will provide many links, like this one or this one. What seems interesting is that while taking the colour test yields mostly positive results (if you like red, you are passionate; if you like blue, you are calm, and so on), bibliopsychology (here’s a new term for posterity) is very judgemental. Your favourite book may say about you that you are a geek, or a pervert obsessed with young girls, or a manic depressive who thinks he is followed at every step — you get points if you guess which books are hinted at here.

Who would say this is their favourite book?

Who would say this is their favourite book?

Seriously now, it may be hard to escape the connotations associated with most books — such as if you claim that your favourite book is Ulysses, everybody will think you are a pretentious phoney, because nobody seems to have ever finished it. It is also true that we are aware of the fact that asking about a favourite book is not as innocent as a favourite food question. You know you will be judged, and it will be hard not to be found guilty. Even various genres have their own implied associations. Think of romances, fantasy stories, graphic novels, or self-help books and see what character traits come to mind. I did, and I decided against mentioning them here for fear that I may awake the wrath of many. My own stark assessments also surprised me greatly, considering that I am known to have enjoyed such books on occasion. But the truth is that loving a book, or more, or all, is better than replying “I don’t read much… these days.” It’s better to have read and loved, than not to have read at all.

2014 Vancouver books

When you recognize a place in a movie or book, it makes you feel a stronger, more personal connection with that work: here is that coffee shop that you pass by every morning; that crooked tree under which you had your first kiss; and when the author describes the streets shining with rain late at night, you know exactly what he means. It always gives me chills when I recognize some Vancouver corner in a movie, and my heart leaps when I find even the mention of the city in a novel. Moreover, when I travel to a new place, it is very enticing to read a book set in that place: it helps bridge the distance, and creates a sense of intimacy that is not easy to achieve at first sight.

So for those new to Vancouver, and even those who know the city in and out, here is a list of books by Vancouver authors. Not all of them are set here, but they create a well-rounded image of what it means to live here. Please note that the second one featured is Vancouver Confidential, among whose contributors is none other than Jason Vanderhill, former member of the Alcuin Society Board of Directors.


Human Library in Vancouver, Jan 23-Feb 8

Here at the Alcuin Society we talk about books and libraries all the time, but what are Human Libraries or Human Books? The PuSh Festival is proud to announce Human Library coming back to Vancouver for the third year in a row. The event will take place at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library on 350 West Georgia Street, January 23 to February 8, between 12 and 4 pm. Admission is free, and there will be 30 Human Books available on a first-come, first-served basis.

From the Human Library in Copenhagen, in 2010 -- the rapper book on the right

From the Human Library in Copenhagen, in 2010 — the rapper book on the right

To answer the question, Human Library is a display of people who wait for the visitors (readers) to approach them and strike a conversation. The Human Books stand for various stereotypes. They are keen to talk about their experiences, and open up to those who entertain their own prejudices, who are willing to transcend them and find more about a real person’s life. The conversation usually starts by finding out the name of the book (such as “The Hitchhiker”, “The Disabled”, “The Homeless”) and before you know it you will immerse yourself in a rich experience and learn so much about the world. The Human Library is an international phenomenon that started in Denmark in 2000 as a protest against violence. To find out more about this movement, check out their website.

Call for entries for the 2014 Alcuin Book Design Awards

Happy New Year, dear book lovers. To celebrate in style, the society has just opened the competition for the 2014 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. In order to be eligible, books have to be published in 2014 by a Canadian publisher and designed by a Canadian designer. The entry fee per title is $30 for the Alcuin Society members and $35 for non-members. For five or more entries, there is a discount of 15%. In order to enter please fill out the form on our Apply page and follow the instructions enclosed. The deadline is March 27, 2014. For any questions, please contact awards[at]alcuinsociety[dot]com


This year’s judges are Rod McDonald, typographer and type designer, Robin Mitchell-Cranfield, illustrator, graphic designer and university lecturer, and Roberto Dossil, book designer and senior lecturer. The judging will take place on April 11, and the results will be delivered shortly after. You can check the list of last year’s winners on the Awards page or visit our Previous Winners and Resources page to view catalogues.

The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design is the only national competition of its kind in Canada. This tradition was established in 1981, and it honours not only the Canadian book publishers, but also those who work hard to make books legible and beautiful works of art, and whose names are rarely celebrated: book designers. Please note that the Alcuin Awards are self funded, and the Society that makes them possible is solely sustained by its members and donors. If you love books, like what we stand for, and want to support our rich history and efforts, do not hesitate to visit our Membership or Donate pages.

The new library in Halifax to open December 13

Just in time for Christmas, the city of Halifax gets a wonderful present: a shiny new library, innovative in design and impressive as a gathering place. Contrasting with the more traditional architecture of the city, the new building will open on December 13 on Spring Garden Road, in the middle of the busy shopping district. The library is part of a larger development project that is meant to inject new life in the area and modernize it.

Halifax new library to open December 13

Halifax new library to open December 13

Halifax is not the only city determined to invest in a modern library. Calgary has also announced a new library to be open in East Village in 2018, which is also meant to revive this community and attract families and culture lovers. “We consider the library an educational anchor to the development,” stated Susan Veres, vice-president of Calgary Municipal Land Corp., which works to develop the neighbourhood.

Calgary new library to open in 2018

Calgary new library to open in 2018

These wonderful gems of architecture follow in the footsteps of other libraries with exquisite, innovative design. Let us not forget the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library designed by celebrated architect Moshe Safdie, inspired by the Colosseum. It includes cafes and shops, and it features seating and studying areas, which is why it also serves as a social gathering spot.

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, designed by Moshe Safdie

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, designed by Moshe Safdie

These new multi-million projects may seem puzzling in a time when eBooks are gaining over paper books, and libraries are bound to lose their function. But this is a part of a whole new vision in which libraries are becoming more than just storage for books, they are becoming learning establishments and community centres.

Moscow transit offers free book downloads

It is inspiring to see the creative ways out there to spread the love for literature. (This Little Free Library project is just one of them.) Now Moscow transit system offers passengers more than 100 Russian classical titles to be downloaded for free. This service is available on 700 of its buses, trams and trolleybuses, and at 195 of its metro stations. Scanning a code with a smartphone or tablet gives commuters instant access to the virtual library, which includes names like Chekhov and Tolstoy.

This project is part of a bigger initiative to modernize transit, which include providing free wi-fi on all trains by the end of the year. It is a smart way to get involved with the passengers, considering that reading is one of the commuters’ favourite pastimes. Of course, this may not be very popular with those who prefer paper books, but it is a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of the Russian literature for those who get consumed by the digital and are not necessarily interested in books. We would love to see this kind of initiatives on Canadian transit as well.

Moscow Metro is one of the oldest and most beautiful subway systems in the world. Opened in 1935, its stations are examples of exquisite architecture and elegance.

Keivskaya station

Keivskaya station

Little Free Library

There are still people who love books. How do we know that? Among all the fuss about electronic devices and digital media, there are still folks who start initiatives such as the Little Free Library. I was amazed to hear that such a thing exists, and there are even several locations in Vancouver. The concept consists in miniature “book houses” located in public spaces, so that anybody can leave or borrow a book. This becomes more like a community library, where anybody can contribute or benefit. It is a wonderful idea of passing along books, so that they can be enjoyed by other people as well.

The whole thing started as a school project: Todd Bol from Hudson, Wisconsin, built a little school house as a storage for books and installed it on his lawn. Rich Brooks, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, saw the potential, and this is how the Little Free Library was born. It was 2009. By January 2014, there were around 15,000 locations all around the world. There are 13 Little Free Libraries in Vancouver, one of which being this wonderful construction at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, on 71st and Hudson. Feel free to browse through many other very crafty book houses on the Little Free Library Flickr gallery. Search the map for a location near you, or feel free to start your own project. Sometimes what it takes is just a handful of people to start something inspiring and amazing.