Why scrapbook

Many people scrapbook for a lot of reasons. As I read a post by Ali Edwards, then listened to a recent Paperclipping Roundtable podcast, I was interested to note that they weren’t really taking the time to define their meaning of the average scrapbooker versus the industry insider scrapbooker. I think that lack of definition was causing part of the confusion.

So in order to define it for myself, what is the average scrapbooker? A person, usually a woman, who wants to record, in more or less chronological order, the events of her family’s life. Secondarily, this “average” scrapbooker wants to do so in a long-lasting (archivally safe) and attractive manner. But – and here is part of the big BUT that I think was causing the problem – this person is not necessarily interested in doing it as a major creative outlet. This is neither her art nor her craft. The aspect of hobby and creativity is, for many, actually secondary to the purpose, though not unimportant. The ladies in the PRT, and even Ali Edwards to a certain extent, do all regard this as a primary creative outlet. And that impacts how they think of it, in ways of which I suspect they are unconscious.

I would note that this is my perception of an average, and that the average may be changing. I, myself, do not fit that definition, since I am single and childless – but I’ll get into my purpose for scrapbooking in a moment. I am merely noting at this point that most of the scrapbookers I know are women, with a family, and the family is the trigger-point for taking up the hobby. And that the artistic aspect of it is actually secondary to the basic goal of recording memories.

Of course, nowadays, the chronological part is less true. I’ve seen plenty of evidence that people are doing themed scrapbooks. But I would assert that the idea of scrapbooking started with that chronological focus. And in a way, I think that is one topic the Roundtable hasn’t addressed. They themselves don’t really focus on chronology, so their discussions don’t really address it, but they are missing the large portion of their audience who does. I suspect that some of the feedback that complains a little is rooted in that sense of distance from the story vs. time focus. And here’s what annoys me about that story focus: somehow they have missed the fact that the story of my life is made up of those chronological records as much as it is the “story” that they want to record. In a weird way, it sounds like they are devaluing the chronological focus, although I do not think that that is their intent.

And that leads back around to why I scrapbook.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who had a journal. I’m talking about the people who actually write their thoughts down in a diary with pen and paper (or electronically, but they do write it down) – daily. But whenever I tried that, I lost interest all too quickly. It was too restrictive. And I would grow impatient with the task. I like writing, but too often my thoughts would race past my pen and my enthusiasm would fade. So eventually, I decided just to keep a journal for those moments when I feel a sudden urge to record something. Actually I still have that journal, and I do add things to occasionally, especially the things that I don’t really feel are appropriate to share with the world via a blog, but I still wanted to do something more regular.

Back about eight years ago, I started scrapbooking. I had done some back in college, badly, and always felt that if I took pictures, then I needed to do something with them so that they could be looked at and enjoyed, and so in 2002 (I think), I started up with a friend via Creative Memories. And with time I started to develop my habits and way of working, and my scrapbooking grew in to a regular event, about once a month. In 2005, I started to blog, although it is still somewhat erratic. And after a while, I began to realize that I was journaling, the thing I had always wanted to do. Apparently a text-only journal was the limitation.

So for me, scrapbooking is my way of journaling my life, and because of that focus, there will always be a large portion of my scrapbooking that is exclusively chronological, because I want to remember that in that year, we all went to Mom & Dad’s for Thanksgiving, and I received this gift from my sister, and my niece was this tall and had her own computer for the first time, etc. I often write a good bit on my pages – many of these scrapbook layouts that I see that use minimalist writing are totally uninteresting to me. It is the combination of picture and words that make the journal important. And as I mentioned above, the pretty part is actually secondary. I have become much more minimalist in my creation of pages, rather than more decorative. My creative outlet is the fiber arts, as you might have guessed from all the projects I talk about on this blog, so when I started scrapbooking, I placed a deliberate limit on the products I would allow myself to collect and use, and that has worked to my advantage in some ways. In fact, I’ve been thinking about purging even the small amount I do have, because there are certain things I bought thinking I would use them, and, well, I don’t. Paper just isn’t my creative outlet, so I don’t even try to approach it that way.

The biggest change for me – and this is triggered by things like listening to the podcast and reading some scrapbookers’ blogs, as well as just learning to appreciate that my daily life is just as important as the “events” of my life – is to try to record some of the simpler things of my life. It started with the fiber arts, as I started to record my finished projects and works in progress, and so on, and what I grew in my garden each year, and what I am cooking these days (food bloggers, you know), and now I am beginning to realize that I want to record some more self-reflective things as well, with pictures. It is still journaling, but less exclusively chronological, though time is emphatically a part of it. But I do want to take some pictures of the beautiful fall colors and share the fact that I think it is beautiful and I try to appreciate the colors as I pass them each day.

Journal (from Merriam-Webster online): Etymology: Middle English, service book containing the day hours, from Anglo-French jurnal, from jurnal, adjective, daily, from Latin diurnalis, from diurnus of the day, from dies day — more at deity

Date: 15th century

1 a
: a record of current transactions; especially
: a book of original entry in double-entry bookkeeping b
: an account of day-to-day events c
: a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use d
: a record of transactions kept by a deliberative or legislative body e
log 3 f

I think next I’ll try to reflect on how I scrapbook. I need to think about it, because I’ve been realizing there are some barriers in place to achieving some of the goals I have in mind.



  1. Tensy said,

    May 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I love the channels that the internet weaves you in and out of…I linked to your blog through a comment on Will Manley’s blog and started browsing your posts. I found Will when I read his column about hating mysteries (which I also dislike.) Then I scrolled your blog a bit further and find out you are a librarian (I am too) and that you like to scrapbook and knit, which are my other two greatest passions after reading and movies. I am much older than you, but started scrapbooking just about 4 years ago and I have been doing it backwards ever since. My kids are in college and beyond and now I have more time to devote to it. Each child has his or her own set of albums and I have been going through the photo albums selecting the best for these scrapbooks. When they officially leave home the scrapbooks will go with them. When I was a child we left Cuba in a hurry and my Mom was only able to take 3 small albums with her. I treasure that album and wonder what I would do in the same situation since I have at least 4 albums for each kid and a variety of theme albums (sports, trips, etc.) I even did one theme album where I took pictures of each room of the house (kids rooms as is, with clothes everywhere) and journaled about the stuff in their closets. I love Ali Edward’s week in the life albums, but I don’t really have THAT much time!

    • bibliotecaria2 said,

      May 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks so much for checking me out, Tensy. I went to your blog and read some of your posts. I hadn’t seen the report on boys vs. girls, so I was interested to read it.

      And don’t give up on the Week in the Life. Maybe you can rework it to find a way to make it work for you. I’ve been dabbling in it to see what I can do, because it is right up the alley of what I am liking about scrapbooking more and more, the ability to journal the ordinary events of my life.

  2. noell said,

    May 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Now I find this interesting…your description of an average scrapbooker. So many people have emailed me their own description or definition and so far I don’t think I have found any two that match!

    And what’s funny is that I have scrapbooked with a lot of people around my town in Mesa. And the average scrapbooker out here who has never had any participation in the industry at almost the opposite of your definition. They seem to me to be all about the decorating of the page and put very little information on them (except that they do scrapbook chronologically –that part is the same).

    I think the real reason we have chosen not to define the average scrapbooker is not because we don’t understand or remember but because there isn’t one. They/we are all so different. But I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts after we release this week’s show! Thank you for adding to the discussion and reminding us that we’re all very different.

    • bibliotecaria2 said,

      May 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      I look forward to this new episode that’s coming. Maybe one of the topics that could be addressed one day is that the average scrapbooker is a myth!

      I would be interested in your response to my thoughts about the creativity aspect affecting your way of doing things. When I heard you say one time that if you didn’t work on a page for two hours or so, then you felt unfulfilled, I knew that we were fundamentally different. If I spent that amount of time on one layout, I would feel like I had wasted my time! But that’s because it doesn’t feed that creative urge, I suspect.

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