L-140v. Building a BookLab (Online)

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum Kari Kraus

Course Length: 6 hours
Schedule: 7–9 p.m. ET on 16 October, 23 October & 30 October
Format: Online
Course fee: $500

This short course will explore practical approaches and strategies for building a student-centered book arts makerspace—a “booklab”—with an emphasis on those institutions with modest and even scant resources. It will be based upon the instructors’ success in jointly conceiving, developing, and directing BookLab at the University of Maryland since 2018.

We will explore start-up considerations, such as physical space and budget, as well as essential purchasing. We will cover a range of tabletop letterpress options in some detail, and also discuss how to source type and other printing necessities. In slightly less detail, we will cover how to stage activities, such as bookbinding, papermaking, and zine making, as well as the integration of newer technologies, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, and digital design tools. We will devote significant time to curriculum, programming, and community building, as well as the challenges of maintaining and sustaining a BookLab—ranging from financials, funding, and staffing to the limits of any one person’s time, enthusiasm, and labor. We will also consider the role of social media and collaborations with other campus entities like libraries and makerspaces, and relationships with public arts organizations. For all of the above, we will address inclusivity, accessibility, and physical safety.

The audience for the course is those persons either thinking about developing such a space at their own institution, or who are currently running one seeking insight into what others are doing. While the focus will be on college and university settings, the course will also be appropriate for those working at the K-12 level or in community-based public arts.

Course History

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum & Kari Kraus teach this course online (6 hours).

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Related Courses


  • Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
  • Kari Kraus

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is Distinguished University Professor of English and Digital Studies at the University of Maryland, where he is also an affiliated faculty member with the College of Information Studies. He is a longtime RBS faculty member, having previously co-taught the course in born-digital materials. A practicing letterpress printer, he co-founded and co-directs BookLab and the Plaintxt Press at the University of Maryland. His most recent book is Bitstreams: The Future of Digital Literary Heritage (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). He has delivered the annual Rosenbach, Breslaur, Brownell, Fales, and McKenzie lectures, among others. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, LitHub, the Paris Review Daily, War on the Rocks, The Conversation, and Public Books. He has been both a National Endowment for the Humanities and a Guggenheim Fellow.

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Kari Kraus

Kari Kraus is an Associate Professor in the College of Information Studies and the Department of English at the University of Maryland. Her research, teaching, and creative interests focus on new media and the digital humanities, Human-Computer Interaction, AI- and computer-generated poetry, and book history. She was a local Co-Principal Investigator on two grants for preserving virtual worlds; the Principal Investigator on an Institute of Museum and Library Services Digital Humanities Internship grant; and, with Derek Hansen, the Co-Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation grant to study Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and transmedia storytelling in the service of education and design. In 2015, she and collaborators at the University of Maryland and Brigham Young University partnered with NASA on DUST, a game promoting the deep-time sciences. In 2017, their follow-up game The Tessera was featured as an Official Selection at IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games, which the Los Angeles Times described as “the video game industry’s Sundance.” Kraus spent 2019 in residence at the Library of Congress as a Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies. Currently she is completing Embarkings, a collection of computer-generated poetry. With Matthew Kirschenbaum, Kraus co-directs BookLab.

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