Categorically Speaking | Newberry

Categorically Speaking

I have been asked for a few more definitions of what goes into which category. Well, actually it was an inquiry about “What aren’t the books you put under Humor funnier?” My answer to that was “Even your Uncle Blogsy can’t write ALL the books in the section.”

The answer I got in reply to that is difficult to spell.

Now, some of the categories seem to me to be pretty self-evident: books about architecture can be found in our Architecture section. (Although so can books about city planning and landscaping.) Books on antiques wind up in Antiques (books on stamp and coin collecting are in there as well.) Books on gardening go in Gardening and books about books go into Books and Authors (as do books about authors.) Books about making methamphetamines go into this little box that I try to shove into a corner of the basement until I think of what to do with them. So far, so obvious.

Some categories may be a bit broader than what the sign says, but these are also KIND of obvious. The Business category includes books on economics while the Children’s section includes books going right on up to the high school years. (We tried a Young People’s section one year, but my heart wasn’t in it. ALL our books are for the young at heart.) The Chicago section includes books about Illinois generally, as well as some of southern Wisconsin, western Indiana, and so forth. We call it Chicago because Local Interest also sounded a little vague and “Young People”y.

It’s categories like Fashion which seem to befuddle people. There are two basic kinds of books on this table: histories of costume and studies of designers and designs in what is known as High Fashion (clothing for people who do not eat and apparently do not need to walk.) Books like “Dress for Success” and “Color Me Beautiful” will be found in How To (Hands). It is NOT true, as one of my volunteers told me, that “You can really put any book in that category, since anything can be fashionable.”

A lot of flak comes flying my way from the vicinity of Show Biz, too. Even leaving aside the Newberry official who demanded that this be labeled “Show Business”, there’s more discord here than I ever expected. One irate customer accused me of having hidden all the books on the Beatles. “I’ve looked everywhere in Show Biz and I can’t find one!”

“But the Beatles are in Music,” I said.

Her nose came up. “They were on Ed Sullivan!”

Yes, and Michael Jackson was on MTV, but he still winds up in Music. This is over the objection of those people who insist he should be in African-American Studies, with, say Gwendolyn Brooks (whose books are in Poetry and whose life is in Books and Authors) and Sidney Poitier (who goes in Show Biz).

“See,” I explain, “Show Biz is primarily for directors, producers, actors…people not primarily musicians or dancers…people who entertain!”

“Yeah,” said a passerby, “Where are the books on the career of Kim Kardashian?”

I sighed. “Humor.”

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