Clearing Up | Newberry

Clearing Up

I really do understand the separation anxiety. The books have been around forever, and they’ve become part of the fabric of your existence, and even though you need to make space (so you can buy more in July) you want to be sure they’ll be treated kindly, and given new homes.

But there’s not much excuse for “Could I come back after the sale and pick them up if they don’t sell?”

This sort of took my breath away. I explained that it’s very difficult to segregate one donor’s books (it was no more than two small bags) and even more difficult to go through on the Monday after and pull out a few books from the debris of a good, long sale. But I can read in a person’s eyes when my message is not getting through (this happens a lot, somehow) so my suggestion was, “Why don’t you come in on Sunday afternoon and BUY them back? Then you’ll be sure to get them all.”

It was even more breathtaking to see the relief in the donor’s face and hear, “You’re right! That’s just what I should do!”

The mighty cartoonist Joe Martin made a mantra of the phrase “unclear on the concept”. This motto has come to my mind more and more as we creep toward the Book Fair. For one thing, I had two inquiries in as many days along the lines of “Can we donate books during the days you don’t want us to donate books?”

One problem with this question is that the person who asks it doesn’t care about the answer anyway. Short of being told, “Well, you can, but it’s your own fault if you set off the flamethrowers”, that person is going to donate books anyway.

Another problem is the same old same old. I am not, except under extreme circumstances, going to turn away a donation. It is one of the rules of the Book Fair that I refuse to be put in the position of saying, “Sorry, I can’t accept that Gutenberg Bible when I have all these paperback romances to get ready in time for the Book Fair.”

The reason we have these Don’t Donate Books periods is that if you donate books during them You Will Be In The Way. We have other things we need to be up and doing. We do not want to take time out from these things to unload your SUV, chat about the circumstance under which you lost volume 17 of your encyclopedia, and find a place to stack those boxes of yours until you leave and it’s safe to throw the books in the recycling bin. In July especially, I am very busy trying to decide what’s going to get priced to go into the 2014 sale, and what I can stash in the basement to wait until next year. It’s not just a matter of “This is valuable, let’s get it in this year.” It’s also a matter of “I need to do more research on this; it will have to wait” and “I know the other four volumes of this came in six months ago and I set them aside, but I can’t hunt for ‘em now.”

If you donate books during this period, it means (since I cannot, unfortunately, stash you and your Hyundai in the basement until a more convenient time) something we wanted to accomplish for July will not get done in time. Do you understand that because you chose to bring in all those Management texts you never got around to reading, a pile of really nice pop-up books that need a little glue to make them saleable will NOT get priced?

Some of you don’t, I know, because you are still Unclear On The Concept. But that’s okay. It is no disgrace to be occasionally clueless. Sometimes I fail to understand things at first glance, myself. When I saw that little box labeled “Anatomy Flash Cards”, my mind leapt to the wrong conclusion entirely.

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