JP MartonÕs Book Nook

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Moving at the same pace as many of the students bustling in and out of BrennanÕs, UVM custodian Jacques Paul ÒJPÓ Marton motions toward a collection of white shelves in the pubÕs back corner stocked with paperbacks and hard copies new and exceptionally old.

ÒThe pronouncement of the death of books was premature, in my opinion,Ó Marton says.

Case in point: the Davis Center Book Nook, which Marton proudly created three years ago and now watches over.

The concept of the Nook is simple: books donated by students, faculty members, staff members and alumni are collected, sorted and placed on the shelf, to which anyone may read or take without any expectation of having to give it back.

MartonÕs intention for the project is ambitious [ÒweÕre saving books!Ó he exclaimed several times throughout the interview], but at heart he said heÕs simply trying to foster a culture of learning beyond the classroom that often starts with a really good book.

ÒI feel connected to these people that penned these great novels,Ó he says, listing off masters of the literary canon that include names like Chaucer, Faulkner, Tolstoy and Twain. ÒWhen you pick up a book itÕs such a grand tradition. It was the first massive liberation of mankind.Ó

The beginnings of the Nook, on the other hand, were relatively humble. Cleaning up BrennanÕs one morning, Marton noticed an empty shelf in the corner that he described as Òan eyesoreÓ. He brought in a few books, hung up a sign that read, ÒAdopt a book or give a bookÓ, and watched them quickly disappear.

With help from the Davis CenterÕs assistant director of marketing Kate Strotmeyer (a woman whom Marton now calls Òthe Book Nook museÓ) and a Sodexo manager for the pub the nook grew in size and purpose.

Working with the University Bookstore, Marton says bookstore employees now donate to the Nook books that are unfit to sell in the store.

Students who pass by the Nook will notice an eclectic assortment of literary ÒclassicsÓ such as Michael MooreÕs ÒStupid White MenÓ curiously placed close to Vicki LeonÕs ÒUppity Women of Medieval Times.Ó

But the Book NookÕs four shelvesÑa feat that Marton talks about with a chuckle, remembering back to a time when he and Kate were afraid they would only fill twoÑare packed with collections that would make any lover of literature swoon: the Shakespeare pile rivals any local bookstore, and students are likely to have a much easier time tracking down the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides here than in the labyrinth of Bailey/Howe.

Marton, however, said he is particularly proud of a world literature section that at one point included a copy of the Quran that has since disappeared. ÒThese sections you think would just sit here are picked up quickly,Ó he said.

As times goes on, the Book Nook is sure to expand thanks to a recent collaboration with the Collection Development Department within the Bailey/Howe library.

This entity is responsible for donating many of the titles that currently grace the shelves of the Book Nook, said Peter Spitzform, who works in the Bailey/Howe Collections Development Department.

He said the department receives many book donations from people associated with UVM, of which some get donated to a free bookshelf in the libraryÕs basement that has existed for decades.

ÒOn one of JPÕs forays he realized we had free books, so we all started talking and worked out an informal agreement,Ó he said. Now, the Collections Department donates to the Book Nook copies of books it already has.

To hear Marton tell his life story, itÕs clear why he continues to find knowledge and strength from the literary tradition.

Books, he said, helped him get through several traumatic experiences that left him grateful and hopeful that people– and especially students– could form equally beneficial relationships with the novel.

It is precisely this sort of education that Marton said he hopes the Nook will help create in some cases, and preserve in others. He outlined the goals for the Nook in a recent email to faculty members:

ÒMy dream for the Book Nook in its entirety is to eventually have it become a renowned part of the University of Vermont,Ó he wrote on Sept. 6. ÒThe world should know what kind of special Student-Scholar chooses to come and study at UVM. Their sole purpose is not to gain a Symbol, an official document or proof of Higher Education. They come to UVM with a strong desire to learn and explore many new horizons with the belief that UVM can give them this entire educational experience.Ó