Sunday, December 15, 2019

End of an era

Working as long as I have at a library I have found different eras can be marked in many different ways. Some are marked by staff members who make an outsize impression, usually via cruelty but occasionally because of their sheer eccentricity. Others can be measured by particularly troubled library patrons and tend to be more fun to remember than to live through. We can also record certain distinct eras according to obvious standards like "old building", "transitional location", and "new building". We even mark eras by defining technologies: The Rudimentary Computer Era, The Rise of Self Check Out Era, and The Dawn of RFID. 

But I like best the quiet, steadily paced, and less emotional eras marked by the library's reigning bestseller.

The reigning bestseller is a unique kind of book defined by a longstanding, unpredicted, and curiously rising popularity. It is not the 7th book in The Harry Potter Series, where we had 80 copies in our system at release day. But it was absolutely the first book in the series, Sorcerer's Stone, of which we bought six copies when it came out, added another five later, then ten, and ten, and so on, repeatedly, assuming the demand would relent. It sort of did after a half dozen years, but not really.

Which brings me to today, and to the end of an era. 

The Gentleman from Moscow Era is now officially over. The first copy to be checked in and not be on hold for someone has come through our giant check in machine. The Gentleman from Moscow's run was just over three years. It was a beautiful and graceful run. And while The Gentleman from Moscow was oddly not a book I would describe as beloved, it was the most universally liked book I have ever seen in our library system. While it could of course still happen, I have discussed this book with dozens, possibly hundreds of people and have never heard a single word towards it that lacked warmth. Surely there are 50 different people over the years who have had the opportunity to respond to my saying that I have not yet met anyone who didn't like it with a negative anecdote or their own response that the book wasn't quite for them. But it never happened. And it's not like I don't receive vitriolic book critiques in my job. In fact general praise for something at my library sometimes feels like waving a red flag in front of a bull. But not this time.

So farewell to The Gentleman from Moscow Era. I am sad to see it go. It is not so often that an era is defined by an actually delightful book like The Gentleman from Moscow. I have seen eras come and go for truly unpleasant books such as Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and The Celestine Prophecy. Indifferent cultural detritus like The Bridges of Madison County and The Da Vinci Code have had their perhaps undeserved time in the sun. So when something I really enjoy, like The Hunger Games, or The Gentleman from Moscow comes along to become the monarch of our collection I like to really enjoy the era as it happens.

And to mark the bittersweet day as it passes.

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