Keeneland Magazine

NO4 2013

Keeneland, Investing in Racing's Future since 1936.

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C onserving and preserving old books seems like an occupation for someone with at least a few wrinkles and a vast appreciation for the way things used to be done. But Lexington's lone independent book conser- vationist, Alex Brooks, only fts half that bill. His wavy hair shows no sign of gray, and his baby face has nary a crevice, unless dimples count. He is in his early 30s and seems slightly bemused by the preconception of book conservation being a stronghold of the more senior generations. "Being raised in a digital world is giving some of us more appreciation of things that are physical and lasting," he said. "It's easier and cheaper to go to Michael's and buy a new frame rather than try and conserve an antique one, but some people know the value of saving these things and with others, it's a matter of education." The same holds true for books, said Brooks, who works from his "half studio/ half house" on Martin Luther King Boulevard, which also falls under his purview of restoration projects. And though he restores and conserves a multitude of antiquarian objects, Brooks fnds breathing lasting life into old books a good ft, though not necessarily his life's only calling. "A calling is like love: You can love a lot of people depending on the situation," he said. "I'm interested in so many things, and book conservation is multi-faceted. It feels like the right place for me to be." Brooks is very busy trying to get his business off the ground. While most book conservationists go to work for large institutions such as universities, museums, or libraries, he is trying to make a go of it on his own. Regular work from the Keeneland Library is a big help. "Keeneland is my security," he said. "They are a great client and are willing to invest in their books and their library." Brooks has known its director, Becky Ryder, since his days as a college student at the University of Kentucky, where Ryder was previously head of preservation serAlex Brooks repairs and preserves old books in his "half studio/half house." vices for UK Libraries. Brooks apprenticed at UK's King Library Press, learned about printing, and became interested in book binding. That interest led him to a student job with UK Libraries, repairing circulating books and piquing his interest in book restoration and conservation. KEENELAND WINTER 2013 25

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