The Cemetery Lady came up with a grand idea once, and offered it to the Newberry for free. “You want to start a Lottery Club,” she told me. “Get together a group of people who play the lottery regularly, and have them sign a pledge that they’ll give ten percent of whatever they win to the Newberry.”
I didn’t even need to take that one to my bosses. “The Powers That Be,” I said, “Will complain about spending more on membership cards and renewal forms than they make on winnings.”
I recognized the look I got in reply. I get that a lot from people just after I point out that we can’t use old encyclopedias to build a new wing on the library. It mixes pity with contempt, to show their disgust at meeting another naysayer and their sorrow at the thought of the great success I’m passing up. I manage to get to sleep at night despite those accusing eyes.
But I daydream as much as the next Book Fair Manager, and I do wonder sometimes what I would buy for the Book Fair if I was the beneficiary of a few million dollars.
A DRONE: Depending on the price, this might simply fly around during the Book Fair repeating “Upper right hand corner of the first white page”, “Down the hall to your right for checkout”, “Down the hall to your left for restrooms”, and “Noon to eight, Thursday and Friday, ten to six Saturday and Sunday”. For a bit more money, I might get one with spy capabilities, so I could look into that book which supposedly has no price and explain they’re holding it upside-down, without having to drop what I’m doing and run to checkout. The rest of the year it would patrol the parking lot and drop anvils on people with banana boxes.
SNOW: Yes, I know that’s a four-letter word, particularly after this winter. But we’re talking End Of July now. A machine that directs a gentle dusting of snow every hour on the hour would cool the customers, soothe tempers immensely, AND provide a chance for some booklovers to say to their less-than-thrilled spouses, “It’s snowing too hard to leave now, Honey. We’d better run through the Books and Authors section one more time.”
A FLEET OF LIMOS: One of our recurring fears is that you are restricting your purchase of 8-track tapes because you’ll have to carry them to your car through the heat, or even haul them home on the bus. These long blue Newberry limos would deliver you and your purchases right to your door. AND each driver would be at least six foot four, weight three hundred pounds, and dress like a professional wrestler, just in case you have a less-than-thrilled spouse waiting at home.
A RAINBOW GENERATOR: Not only would the rainbow provide a little extra illumination in Ruggles hall, which sadly needs it, but we could have one end in the Checkout Room, since that’s where our pot of gold awaits.
A NEW DEATH RAY FOR PEOPLE DROPPING OFF BOOKS IN APRIL: Look, I’m sure the Death Ray I have now was top of the line when it was installed. But it’s our thirtieth Book Fair, and we have to upgrade. (Let me check my phone. Maybe there’s an app for that.)