Telling historical tales with Blurb
We recently spoke with the author of one of our favorite made-with-Blurb history books to get some insight into the process of what it takes to put together such an interesting document. Texas librarian Leslie Couture is not a trained historian, but with a little effort and research she was able to build a marvelous book around photographer Alec Williams’ photos of Denton, TX in the 70s and 80s. Though Alec had been taking the photos for years, he’d never considered making a book of them. Here’s our conversation with Leslie.
Blurb: What inspired you to put these photos and stories into a printed book?
Leslie: Well, Alec, and his Fry Street collection. I had never appreciated the role a photographer had in history until I began scanning his photographs. The one thing I admire and appreciate about Alec is that not only did he take hundreds of photographs of an area that no longer exists, but he also saved all of his negatives and then he physically brought them to the library after we asked him to. That is huge.
After I’d scanned around 500 photographs, I realized there was enough content to tell a story. The book idea evolved because I wanted to make an “artifact” that would be unique to our library and be of interest to the community. People come into the Special Collections Department with expectations of finding things that may not exist anywhere else. We do have those items, but the only way that happens is if people donate them, or we stumble upon something. I looked at all of those photographs and thought: Why hasn’t someone already done something with this? And then I thought, why not us? An experiment you might say.
Blurb: What was the process of actually putting the book together like? Which tools did you use?
Leslie: I was a beginner at everything when it came to this project. I had just learned to scan things and we just purchased Photoshop Elements (which I would have to learn how to use). This was also my first time using Blurb software, so I had to get used to it.
Scanning negatives is very different from scanning photographs. There were 35mm negatives and some odd sized ones that Alec had done himself that I would have to “find” on the glass. Many of the negatives were cut wrong and as a result (and me being a beginner) I had a hard time distinguishing just where one photo ended and the next began, especially on the nightclub shots. Then there were all of the discolored or dusty negatives…
In the end, the book still didn’t look polished, so I asked one of our volunteers, Erin Mazzei, who’s a professional photographer and teaches at Texas Woman’s University, to take a look at the layout. Erin went through the book and gave me tips, such as making sure the photos were uniform on both pages.
Blurb: Leslie, did your library science training help you make this book?
Leslie: I have worked in a library for twenty-one years now. I will say that working in the Special Collections Department of the Denton Public Library made me aware of the interest of the community in this subject and others. We do try to offer programs that might interest people on the history of Denton, or Denton County. I have done lots of exhibits and have some artistic abilities. Our resources make researching very easy and quite addictive.