The Big Picture | Newberry

The Big Picture

One thing we get asked at virtually every Book Fair is “Do you put out new stuff tomorrow?” The answer I prefer my volunteers to make is “You’ll have to come and see.” See, counting books, records, CDs, oddities, and everything else, we probably have around 140,000 individual items out each year. You can NOT see everything the first time through. I have had people SWEAR that book they bought Saturday was nowhere to be found on Friday. I know better—we only HAD one copy of the memoirs of Napoleon’s secretary—but as long as you buy it, I don’t care if you think we held it back for three days.

Now, what with the floorplans needing to be done well before we’re done sorting and packing everything, there are bound to be some areas where we can’t get everything on display the first night without stacking books in the aisles. (The Fire Department frowns on this.) Last year there was plenty of Judaica, Reference, and Poli Sci waiting until you folks bought some and made space.

Some subjects just have no space at all when we open. The most popular of these is the one we call Framed Objects.

Framed Objects come in every year from people who are cleaning out. If we take road maps, they figure, why not prints? And if we take prints, why not framed prints? And here comes that framed picture of the Beefeater you photographed on your trip to England in 1954, and the lunar eclipse your father photographed near Roswell in 1949, and that massive Lyric Opera poster that was essential to your decorating plan in 1987.

These things are hard to store efficiently. For years, all I could do was lean them against a wall in the vault. Sometimes I would take them upstairs and lean them against a wall in the second floor of the vault, but this was doubly perilous with items framed under glass. Those are heavier to carry upstairs, and likely to damage themselves when they tip. (And glass-framed objects are the most likely to tip, too, though I think that’s more a matter of contrariness than of physics.)

On the other hand, with the vault in Room 1, and some fairly popular topics in Room 2, I didn’t have far to carry them when, come the Friday of the Book Fair, there was enough space in Room 2 to shift books and put out the Framed Objects. We do a lot of book shifting, trying to make the Book Fair look full whenever you happen to drop by. This creates empty space, but the Framed Objects filled that neatly in Room 2. (In Room 3 we had the Obsolete Audio-Visual Machines, though slide carousels were reserved for filling empty space in Room 1.)

Our tables generally had to be six inches out from the walls in most rooms (something about the air flow: I got permission to stack empty boxes in the space the year after I caught one of our customers tucked in behind a bookcase erasing our prices and writing in his own.) This was nice for the Framed Objects: small ones could lie flat ON the table, and taller ones could be leaned against the wall BEHIND the table. Six inches gave enough room for customers to lean over and see the whole Framed Object, but the table was right there to prevent a glass-framed poster from tipping and hitting the floor. The Framed Objects, always a bit miscellaneous, were popular enough that some people deliberately waited until Friday to come to the Book Fair. (Also a good thing, since Friday used to be the slow day.)

It was nothing we sat down and planned in great detail: it just grew out of necessity and convenience. When you sit down and plan these things, you build in a lot of unnecessary difficulties.

Which is one of the things we’ll deal with in July. There will be no vault for us to hide Framed Objects in until Friday, no airflow problems requiring us to position tables just so, and….

Well, we’ll see. And so will you, if you come to the Book Fair every day. Anyhow, you NEED that book by Napoleon’s secretary.

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