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BindRite Industry Articles
by Al Boese, Executive Director
BindRite Dealer Network
826 book releases are community events, with student authors popping up annually at Chicago's Printers Row Lit Fest, among other places around the city.
How I Exposed A Secret Spy Supply Agency As An Educational Non-Profit
Undercover Assistance from BindRite Helps 826 Student Writing Program Celebrate 10 Years As Executive Director of BindRite, Inc., I am constantly on patrol for new opportunities in the world of binding and document finishing. That mission explains, to some degree, how I became involved in the clandestine activities of 826CHI.
When I first encountered the organization, 826CHI had been operating for several years, disguised within tertiary levels of deception right in the heart of Chicago. What no one could have expected at the time was that desktop binding equipment manufacturer, PowisParker, and a couple of BindRite dealers would soon become entangled in the enterprise.
To the world at large, The Boring Store was nothing more than that: a particularly dull storefront on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. In fact, the very level of "uninteresting" the trick storefront strove to achieve should have sent a message to passers-by. According to the extensive signage, there was really no reason to enter the place at all. Furthermore, one large chunk of exterior text was quite adamant about the fact that The Boring Store was anything but a store for secret agents. "Interesting," I thought, and decided to investigate.
Despite the bland exterior, I soon discovered that spyware was exactly what The Boring Store was selling. If you were in the market for the latest in espionage accessories (and no one is saying you are), this was the place to be and (not) be seen. Behind the aggressively innocuous façade, an aspiring agent could pick up such basic spy necessities as grappling hooks, spy disguises, message decoders, stakeout necessities, and even X-Ray Spray for penetrating envelopes.
I had quickly uncovered the mystery of The Boring Store. Too quickly. While it appeared that the innocent-looking business was nothing more than a front for a spy supply emporium, could it be that simple? As a participant in the graphic arts and document finishing industries for decades, I've come to trust my intuition. Even things that appear to be simple, are often not.
In this case, my instincts turned out to be correct. Further investigation revealed that a creative writing and tutoring lab for local students was hiding in plain sight behind the spy store. Who would have suspected?
Cracking the 826 CHI Mystery
Further inspection on my part uncovered the inner-workings of the outfit behind the storefront. 826CHI is an innovative nonprofit organization committed to teaching and coaching students to be better writers, with tutoring and writing classes on the premises throughout the week. Focusing on both expository and creative skills, the organization's mission also includes assisting teachers in inspiring students to write.
One of seven chapters scattered around America, 826CHI and its sister locations instruct upwards of 32,000 students annually. Pursuing my inquiries further, I discovered that the 826 staff also sponsors Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trips for grade-school classes. Wait, bookmaking? As director of the nation's premier network of binding and document finishing specialists, that is a word that always catches my attention! And ultimately, it was this publishing and bookmaking component that opened the door for BindRite to participate in the 826 Field Trip program in a positive way.
No Longer Boring
In the process of growing to appreciate the pursuit of literature, 826 students are encouraged to value physical books as tangible artifacts of wonder, knowledge and even amusement. From the beginning, one of the most powerful motivational tools deployed at 826 has been the practice of helping students to emerge from each program as published writers. The working theory is that budding writers can be transformed into capital "A" Authorsif their work materializes in bound form. In many cases, seeing one's name on the cover of a book or anthology is a transformative event for 826 participants.
While recognizing the value of this concept, the early days of DIY binding in 826 programs was a time consuming and occasionally frustrating process. Was there a better way to get the job done and still include student participation?
Clearly this was a binding challenge, and I humbly acknowledge that BindRite (in partnership with PowisParker) stepped up the plate and rose to the occasion. With the generous support of desktop binding system manufacturer, PowisParker, we were able provide each 826 chapter with Fastback® 15 book binding systems, in addition to necessary binding supplies, and even some expertise. These desktop thermal binding units are not only versatile enough to handle all kinds of publications, they are simple enough for untrained operators to use.
These Fastback machines use thermal binding strips to secure written pages into the finished book. Over the years, various BindRite members have generously contributed these strips for use in 826 National centers. Deserving special thanks are McIntire Business Products of Concord, NH and Standard Graphics of Arlington, VA.
I have spent a fair amount of time over the years observing the emerging desktop binding industry-and I still enjoy the technology and the process for its own sake.-but it's hard to imagine anything more fulfilling than the feeling I get seeing the look in the eyes of a newly minted author as they hold their first published work right in their hands.
While the lion's share of the credit for this great program goes to the remarkable staff of 826CHI (and 826 National's co-founder Dave Eggers), I am also proud of the role BindRite and PowisParker have played over the years in helping these young writers literally get into print.
As 826CHI approaches its ten-year anniversary, the organization is celebrating by moving into a larger facility and has taken the opportunity to change the name of the store- now known as the Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. We can only hope that this change will make 826CHI more accessible for both aspiring spies, emerging authors, as well as anyone hoping to combine these careers.