Pop-up book donation enhances collection and invites curiosity

Ann Snow opens a book and forest animals spin and play, valves and veins of the human heart unfurl, and the arches and domes of the Taj Mahal rise and construct themselves from the page. These examples illustrate some of the magic of the Murphy Art & Architecture Library’s pop-up book collection, which Snow has augmented with the donation of 125 books from her personal collection. The specialized books also embody one of the library’s strengths, extending an invitation to curiosity and the opportunity to dive deeper into learning and research. 

Ann Snow looks at a pop-up book featuring the Taj Mahal.

Snow retired in 2021 after working at the Art & Architecture library for nearly 42 years, starting in the Cataloging Department in the late 1970s when the art library was on the fifth floor of Watson Library. She moved with the collection to Murphy Art & Architecture Library below the Spencer Museum of Art in the 1980s, with her role evolving over the years to library assistant, working with catalog maintenance, exhibits, and other facets of daily library functions.  

Snow studied design at KU and had a natural affinity toward three-dimensional art from work in stage design, a talent she sometimes used to enhance library exhibits. Her collection of pop-up books began one day when she visited the bookstore in the Kansas Union and saw the book, “The Facts of Life” by Jonathan Miller and David Pelham on display.  

“I saw it and thought it was really beautiful, and I just had to have it,” said Snow.  

Snow appreciated that the book offered a rich understanding of the content through immersive elements that brought learning to life.  

“It’s the missing manual that I should have had when I was entering adolescence, but didn’t,” she said, demonstrating layered and interactive pop-ups, wheels, and flaps, detailing human reproductive organs and a developing fetus. 

That opportunity to delve deeper into learning and think creatively about topics is something Fine Arts and Humanities Librarian Andi Back constantly incorporates into classroom instruction, individual research consultations, and collection development.  

“When you do a typical search online, you’re filtering out centuries of work in an instant and looking at the same thing that everyone else is looking at,” Back said. “If you want to get at something deeper, if you’re interested in understanding more about the artist’s process or what drove them, it’s beyond what Google is going to give you, which is the most popular or famous content.” 

Consultation with librarian experts and having access to more diverse and different forms of materials is an important part of the library experience that can uniquely enrich and expand research and learning. 

“We have blueprints and magazines from all over the world. We have exhibition catalogs of shows you could only see if you traveled to New York or Los Angeles. There’s also the visual and the tactile and all these different ways to interact with our collection and think about our collection beyond the usual concept of text,” Back said. “And I get to have these amazing conversations about what you’re thinking deeply about and be part of the process. Ultimately, I get to learn from you.” 

The expanded pop-up book collection adds to the wide variety of ways students and faculty can be empowered at the library. Though a large portion of the books are art or architecture specific, including explorations of Leonardo da Vinci’s or M.C. Escher's works or the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, the collection also spans children’s books, film, and human biology, as well as books on paper engineering and how to construct pop-ups.  

“Art feeds the soul. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think humanity would be much without art,” Snow said. “It’s inspiring, it’s exciting, it makes you think, it makes you feel all kinds of different emotions. It’s an essential thing.” 

This story first appeared in the most recent winter edition of Bibliophile, KU Libraries' semi-annual publication for alumni, friends, and benefactors.