I have previously spoken of the librarian who chooses display books based almost entirely on the books being hardcover and the fact that they are very very close to where the particular display spot is. My bitterness about this seems to be a reflection of the fact that her functionally random choices appear to be quite popular and successful, with their fingers right on the pulse of the reading public, while my rogue choices for the same displays, chosen based on a ferocious love of the books involved and on nothing else, go pretty much nowhere. I am now sad to report that her school of display also seems to be in full force out on our themed display cubes. These display cubes are a series of large shelving cubes that feature spotlighted collections of books. I think they're supposed to make up for the fact that without them you'd have to travel several miles from the front doors of my library before you would get to any actual flesh and blood (paper and glue?) books. So I experienced a not unfamiliar shock of horror and recognition when I yesterday looked at the contents of the cube called "Great Lives".
I actually doubt that the "Great Lives" display cube is being stocked by the same librarian whose fiction choices so disturb and confound me, but there is little doubt that it is being stocked along those same theoretical lines. Do they teach this in Library School? Rule one: When stocking any kind of library display always pretend you are in a retail store and trying to sell stuff. Rule two: Conserve your energy! Whatever the source for this approach I am forced to admit that these books seemed to be selling, er, circulating, pretty good. The "Great Lives" display had the look of something doing a brisk business. Fortunately there were still plenty of "Great Lives" to check out. Herewith are some of our featured great lives:
Christopher Milne. Being the inspiration for Christopher Robin at age six may be a tenuous link to greatness, but I would like to grow my conception of greatness if I can. Who knows? I'm pretty sure Pooh thought he was great.
Brock Lesnar. Okay, despite what I said in the comments about Christopher Milne I would totally make fun of Brock Lesnar, a professional wrestler, for being on this cube of great lives. But I won't out of respect for my many, many readers who are great fans of Professional Wrestling. Nevertheless I cannot resist noting that in all the pictures on the internet that I reviewed of Brock Lesnar in order to become properly acquainted with him, he looks far too angry to be leading a great life.
Rob Lowe. I actually really enjoyed West Wing, which I believe is the last TV show I was able to watch in its entirety. Nevertheless, in this context of greatness, I am concerned with his history of legal troubles with former nannies.
Ralph Lauren. I don't like rich people. This probably sounds silly to you as a blanket (available in the Ralph Lauren , English Isles Collection) statement, but I feel it is a necessary corrective in our world. As soon as our world becomes less relentlessly groveling I will revisit this rich person/Ralph Lauren issue. As a side note though I found it strangely interesting that the Wikipedia page for Brock Lesnar is vastly longer than the one for Ralph Lauren.
Laura Bush. This is actually the one that so horrified me I had to write this whole, vast commentary about our "Great Lives" display. But with my outrage mellowed both by time and by the consideration required to write lucidly, I am able to look at the following mitigating factors without passing out. First, she was a librarian. I am thinking this might have leaped out at the selecting librarian as desperately appealing. And though I would figure this is the sort of commonality you would want to bury under the rug with all your old copies of Men are From Mars Women are From Venus I am able to understand the impulse. Two, the librarian had wildly overstocked the "Great Lives" with biographies of men, and where else were they going to find a woman of the stature of a Brock Lesnar!
Adolph Hitler. Yes. Adolph Hitler. Oddly I only even found this one after I was so outraged by Laura Bush and was merely collecting the names of an assortment of other "Great" people on the cube. Dave, my colleague, believes this to be the work of an evil prankster, but I don't believe it. It's not like the book was pro Hitler, and besides, our resident patron Nazi has not been around for months. Oh, and I just went to look it up and the book in question has had its status appropriately changed for being on the cube, which pretty well seals the deal here. As an explanation, I think the librarian who chose this was merely focusing on the "Memoirs and Biographies" subtitle of the "Great Lives" cube, and was also using the term "Great" more in its meaning as "Large" which also helps explain the inclusion of Brock Lesnar, who is 286 pounds!
When I was discussing all this with one of my most excellent colleagues she told me she was given the advice in Library School to never recommend things she loved, because when the patron didn't like them you would hate that person too much to be able to help them anymore. Setting aside just how horribly twisted that advice is, it does make me wonder, what does one say when the patron comes back and says "I loved reading about the great lives of Hitler, Laura Bush, and Brock Lesnar! Oh guide me more wise librarian!"