It’s that time of year again, that time of year when I lock myself away in the Newberry’s legendary basement–just between the Victorian dog kennels and the missing pages of scandalous autobiographies–and price records. The job satisfies two of the impulses every Book Fair Manager has: the thrill of seeing what unknown pleasures lurk in those boxes and bags, and the satisfaction of seeing some of the old faithfuls turn up again.
So I have priced a copy of Carole King’s Tapestry and no fewer than SEVEN different recordings of the New World Symphony. I haven’t seen Tubular Bells yet, nor the Grand Canyon Suite, but I feel this year promises to be everything I look forward to.
Mind you, I must also deal with other common or garden-variety Book Fair donations. I have had one box which was actually rotting out at the bottom (I hate when I don’t notice this before I have it hoisted to my shoulder), and two bundles wrapped in twine. Wrapping books or records in twine for carrying was common in, of the 1930s and 1940s. These particular bundles look as if they were twined together in the 1930s or 1940s. You COULD have sent them overseas during the war to entertain Our Boys Over There.
There were three donations which looked as if they had been chewed. No, this did NOT happen after you donated them: if the Newberry had mice that enterprising, ALL my records would have toothmarks. The scariest was the one where the contents had been clawed hard and deep just inside the handle of the box. Some resident of YOUR basement was trying to reach in and find your Classic Rock collection. (I told you it would attract them if you packed Bread and Cream in the same box.)
But what I found most disillusioning in members of the educated public (those people who know about book fairs) were the garbage bags. I know that when you’re packing up stuff, you can become desperate and start using just about anything. (Three laundry baskets and a refrigerator drawer just in the past week; I don’t know what’s keeping the bushel baskets.) But you can do better than just throwing things in a garbage bag.
Garbage bags, no matter how hefty (an unpaid announcement), are made of thin plastic. This plastic will a. develop holes if objects with sharp corners are placed inside and b. stretch if heavy objects are placed inside. Records in bulk, like books, are heavy, and like books they have sharp corners. This makes them extremely impractical for storage in garbage bags. It’s bad for the bags.
What’s bad for the records (and books, for that matter) is that they offer no support, nor any kind of order. Things jumble around together, since there are no straight sides to teach the young stack of books (stacklet, or stackling) what is its place in this circle of life. Soon sharp corners are hitting the inside of the bag from all angles.
Ah, but you have it licked, lutefisk lollipop. You’ll DOUBLE BAG. Oh, you are ingenious: I have bags which have had their handles twisted and then fastened with a wire twist-tie, only to be inserted in another bag which then has the same technique applied. This makes it possible for you to leave the whole thing on the loading dock. It also insures that the only part of the bag which will NOT rip open is the mouth of the bag.
And it makes sure that the records, bouncing and sliding inside this double cocoon, get bent, battered, scratched, and cracked. See, in a smaller bag or box, they have to stay in line with each other, but in this playground, they can express their creativity to the fullest. Every album you donate bears the marks of the struggle, lowering their value forever.
The moral of this tale, if one is needed, is “Don’t donate in garbage bags!”
(It goes on your record.)