Thursday, February 6, 2020
Dealing out of the back of the library
There are certain books, when they come through the donations, appear in the Friends Bookstore, or show up on a "weeded" cart, that I can't resist grabbing up. And so I do. I don't take them home. I squirrel them away in some locker, or some crevice of the work room at the library where I know no one will bother them. And then I try to remember that they're there, waiting until they're needed.
Today I came across The Wee Free Men, weeded from one of our smaller branches and headed apparently into our little bookstore.
Now it's mine.
Or not, exactly, mine.
I know too many librarians too well to really trust them. And I've been working in libraries too long to completely trust them either. Or maybe it's the culture I don't trust. What is admired and recommended today is forgotten in 20 years. I've seen it happen. The brilliant Adrian Mole Diaries were a bona fide publishing phenomenon in their day. I read them half a dozen times. I loved them wildly. When I started working here it would have been harder to find a library that didn't have The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 than one that did. If only I'd grabbed up a few of those ubiquitous copies from back then. Or maybe I did. But they're gone now. Like King of the Schnorrers another fading from memory masterpiece, or The Star Diaries, or The Magic Christian, it is now strictly a special request book as far as my reasonably large library system goes. I recommended Adrian Mole twice to people in the past couple of weeks. But it's a hard sell when one has to special order it through interlibrary loan. People want things now. It's hard enough to convince most people to read any recommendation in my experience, but if one can whip it off the shelf and put it right in their hot little hands, one stands a chance at least. And it's even more satisfying if one can say "Our library doesn't carry it anymore, but I just so happen to have one stashed away in the back room." Adding in something near a whisper "I'd like you to have it."
I am pretty satisfied with the library I work in, until I'm not. I have my own fair list of items that I'm convinced belong in this building for all people for all times. Many of those books are actually here most of the time already. I don't think I have to worry too much at this point about Left Hand of Darkness, Cats Cradle, The Chosen, Tortilla Flat, Pride and Prejudice or The Lord of the Rings. And at least for the time being , Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, The Eyre Affair, the Lockwood books, and The Name of the Wind seem pretty safe. But I've got a pretty long list of things to keep an eye on, things I don't trust the world to hold in proper respect forever. Yes, absolutely, one can grab Wee Free Men now, but already not as readily as one should be able to for so exquisite a book. I don't know what will happen in 20 years. But hopefully I'll at least have a few copies of it socked away. And if you'll let me talk you into reading it, you can have one.