Friday, November 14, 2014

Catch 22 library

There I was putting another cart of books in order by authors' last names. Patterson goes before Preston, Sail before Suzanne's Diary, when I came upon something magical. There were two identical copies of Catch 22 on my cart! Yes, this sort of delightful thing has certainly happened to me before, but this time, with such a fine and funny book, it seemed somehow so visceral. How neatly these two books went together on my cart! How little fuss in regard to their relation to each other! One copy could go before the other or after the other and it was all the same. And then it came to me: we have, all these years at the library, been making it so unnecessarily hard on ourselves. All these vast varieties of items, all different, in so many ways; different types of media, different subjects, different author last names, different titles, thousands and thousands of different things.

It's a horrible lot to keep track of, to put in order, to organize and account for.

But what if we, at the library, had just one item. No DVDs or talking books, no paper backs or non fiction, no genres or stream of authors through history. One author. One subject. One story. One book. How about that Catch 22 for instance. That was a very good book. We could just have 10,000 copies of Catch 22! Think of how deliriously easy it would be to put a full cart of those in order, how easy to shelve them, how easy to find them! And reference questions, my God!

"Do you have any copies of To Kill a Mockingbird?"

I don't even need to look it up. I don't even need a computer. "No. We have Catch 22. It's by Joseph Heller."

Ha, you say, but what about those people who want to read To Kill a Mockingbird?

I am not heartless. I have thought of this. Each branch in the library system can have their own book. So, for instance, one of our other branches could have all To Kill a Mockingbirds. It would be a little like those One Book programs cities sometimes have, where everyone is supposed to read the same book, only this would be on a different sort of scale, and more permanent, and more beneficial to our shelving system, oh so much more beneficial to our shelving system. Each branch could, instead of being known for their neighborhood or town, could be known for their book. We, for instance, would henceforth be known as The Catch 22 Library. Sure, someone could still come in and say "Do you have a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird?" But I can say "No, this is The Catch 22 Library." And I could put a lot of emphasis on "The Catch 22 Library." I even wrote it in bold so you could see. "If you want To Kill a Mockingbird" I would say "You need to go to the To Kill a Mockingbird Library."

Sure, it might be a pain for the patron to have to schlep all the way over there for a book, but I think that once they get there, they'll be delighted at how easy the book is to find on their shelves.

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