Cody Rae Knue sits down with Jacob Perkins and Matt Nelson, founders of Mellow Pages Library.
JP: The soundtrack today in the Library is Nirvana, MTV: Unplugged from 1992.
56B: How long have you guys been open?
JP: Since February 21st of this year, so two months.
56B: With so much of the book world going digital, doesn’t it seem a bit risky to have a library and reading room?
JP: That’s not a risk for us. It was my studio, so I’m already paying for it. It was more of an experiment.
56B: Would you classify this as an art piece then?
JP: More of a social project.
56B: Are you both artists?
MN: We’re both writers, Jacob is a painter.
JP: I paint too, that’s what I went to school for. I started writing a ton in my studio and not painting at all. At a certain point I felt like the room was wasted on me.
56B: Where did the library idea come from?
JP: Matt was going to move back to Seattle after school and do something similar to Mellow Pages.
MP: No, what I planned on doing was an archive of small press books with a book-signing component. I was trying to get it set up with a friend of mine and we were going to do it legitimately as a non-profit with boards of directors.
56B: How does the Library run? Do you curate what is shown?
JP: Yeah, you don’t just come in here, check out books and take it home. We have memberships, but as far as money is concerned, it’s free. You can bring us ten books, leave them here, people check them out and at the end you can get them back. That’s where the curating comes in. We’ll only accept certain things. Our mission is to support small press publications. We want to feature fiction and poetry.
56B: Besides having the space already, was there a reason to set up shop here?
JP: Well that was the reason why. It just felt like the perfect spot. It’s a studio and a commercial space, so we can do whatever we want with it. We wouldn’t have done it anywhere else.
56B: How many publications do you have?
JP: Of what we have catalogued and on Good Reads, almost 1,200, but there are at least a hundred to two hundred more, especially when you start looking at the zines and the journals. We aren’t really cataloguing those, so I would say we are getting close to 1,400.
MP: It doesn’t look like it’s that much stuff, but when you start actually counting stacks and how many books it takes to go up to the top, it adds up.
56B: I love the way you display the books on nails, it’s almost like they’re pieces of art.
MP: We were trying to think of cool ways of displaying them. We thought of shelves but these walls are just straight dry wall. It just seemed the smartest way, functionally. Plus it just looks cool.
JP: Yeah, it was the cheapest and the fastest. Once we decided to do this, it was like: go!
MP: Yeah there wasn’t a lot of time between once said this is our place and actually making it our place.
56B: Are a lot of these books from your personal collection?
JP: Yeah but there is more than double since we got started. I think we had 700 books at first. Matt probably had 250, my brother had almost 300 that I rescued from North Carolina. He went to school there and when he moved back home to Portland, he left all his books in North Carolina. At one point I went down there to rescue a guitar, an amp and all the books with a rental car. Two days after I got the books, we decided to start Mellow Pages. That was sort of the reason why we thought to do this because I had a ton of books here.
MP: His brother’s books are interesting because they’re all very dense: philosophy, political and abstract. Someone came in here today looking for a specific book, which we had, and Luke, Jacob’s brother, had written notes in all his books.
JP: I think that guy just wanted to read it for the notes. He was doing his PHD and writing his dissertation on political theory, so he took notes with that frame of mind. My brother would draw a whole box around a paragraph and write four or five words to sum it up so he could go back later for that one specific paragraph.
56B: Do you have any recommendations for Summer reading?
MP: Tons of stuff. The book I’m reading now, “Crapalachia,” it’s Scott McClanahan latest book, it’s [pauses] amazing.
56B: What was your favorite book that made you want to read?
JP: My favorite book of all time is Hatchet.
MP: [Laughs] Really? That’s the good book.
JP: That was the first book that had chapters that I really liked. It was fourth grade and what I was into then. That book took over my life. I started reading anything because of Hatchet.
MP: I’d say my favorite was The Phantom Tollbooth.
56B: Do you have any plans to continue the library?
JP: We have year long memberships. We just got another one today, so for at least another 365 days.
MP: That’d be a cool way of doing this. As long as we have members, another commitment to that year. Yeah! This one is for you Chris!
For more information:www.facebook.com/MellowPagesLibrary