How to Make a Book Shield

April 8, 2013

From Italy to England, Sweden to Spain, Oakland to New York, the book bloc has surfaced as a street protest tactic in which people create and use shields that resemble giant books. These shields are both practical and symbolic in asserting the power and importance of culture, while protecting protesters from the police. Interference Archive’s Book Bloc! exhibit features shields made here in New York by CUNY and Cooper Union students in their current struggles against tuition increases and instituting tuition, respectively, and in assertion of “free education for all.”
Here are step by step instructions on how to make your own shield from CUNY student Conor Tomás Reed…

  • two pieces of 2.5 feet by 3 feet thick cardboard
  • one piece of 2.5 feet by 3 feet foamcore or foam insulation (or plexiglass, wood, or other sturdier materials), at least 1-inch thick one piece of 2.5 feet by 3 feet paper (if you wish to paint/draw an image and place it over the cardboard)
  • six 10-inch plastic zip ties
  • 1 old bike inner tube (cleaned and sliced in half lengthwise), 2 feet of thick yarn, or a long thin piece of bungee cord scissors and/or exacto knife
  • 4-6 clothespins
  • paints, paintbrushes, markers, pencils, stencils, stickers, tape, glue, glitter, etc.
  • hand drill with small bits (to drill holes through which zip ties can go, and through which inner tubes, yarn, or bungee cords can go)
  • clear plastic wrap for weather-proofing plastic or fabric tarp


  • Spread the tarp on a work surface.
  • Like a book shield sandwich, set down the first layer of cardboard, then the layer of foam, then the second layer of cardboard, then the large piece of paper. Cut excess material at the edges if needed.
  • Affix clothespins to four corners of the book shield to align the edges firmly.
  • Drill a hole a few inches inside each corner, as well as a few inches inside the middle of each long side of the shield.
  • Thread a zip tie through each hole, fasten it to fit snugly, and cut off excess tie. Remove clothespins.
  • Flip the shield facedown to make pencil marks for where you want handles. I recommend using your less active arm to hold the shield. Lay your arm on the shield at a 45-degree angle with your elbow near the outer middle of the shield. Make a pencil mark on both sides of your hand, and on both sides of the widest part of your forearm.
  • Make a slightly larger drill hole through these marks, with the size depending on whether you use an inner tube, yarn, or bungee cord to make handles.
  • Thread the handle material through both sets of holes, tie off enough material to comfortably loop your arm through one handle and hold the other (not too tight or loose), and cut off excess material.
  • Paint, draw, stencil, glitter up, collage, or otherwise design and decorate your book shield cover!!!
  • Once the cover is dry, wrap clear plastic around the shield. Make sure to cut a bit of the plastic to pull the handles out. Tape the plastic around the shield tightly.
  • Take your books to the streets!