Gifts That Keep On Giving | Newberry

Gifts That Keep On Giving

So we are bracing for the Grand Renovation of 2018 (some work will be done in 2017, but the most of the work will take place after the first of January and, anyway “Grand Renovation of 2018 or thereabouts” doesn’t have the same ring.)

The Book Fair has been smoked from its lair on the first floor, where it has sat since 1986. The space was reluctantly given: the Grand Renovation of 1982 had involved other plans for the space, and we were told our location there was temporary. “Temporary” has a good life expectancy around these parts. We now have a corner on the fourth floor, which has a number of benefits and drawbacks. (But those are only temporary, as we are assured there will be another place for us after the GR.)

One drawback is that we will be sitting not far from Special Collections, where they occasionally have to post notices that because of atmospheric conditions, no one will be allowed to look at anything in vellum today. The prospect of having books from someone’s attic or garage hauled by the cartload to the Book Fair Corner does not, somehow, enchant some Newberrians.

So we have gone through a quick refresher in disgusting books. No, not the ones you hid under your mattress when you were in high school (though I expect some of them qualify.) These are the books which, because of mildew or mice, are not welcome near the rooms where people may be examining our signed Ptolemy atlases. We were instructed on what to sniff for and what to look for. Not all books which smell bad are necessarily bad for other books: we were just getting hints on major danger signs.

One of the things your dear old Uncle Blogsy never gets credit for are those times when he keeps his mouth shut. It’s difficult to count these, first of all, and nobody believes in them anyhow. I thought about mentioning that we very seldom GET boxes which have been chewed through but that our donors frequently use last year’s leaf bags, usually with a few of last year’s leaves still inside. I did not think that would help things along. And I did NOT mention the donor whose books had sat in the basement all during the year that her local animal services people told her to just abandon her home until the raccoons moved out. (They broke open the refrigerator, and managed to break the plumbing, while the recovery firm she hired to clean up simply packed the books in banana boxes, helpfully labeling about twenty of them “Moldy Books”. No, I didn’t think that would enhance the afternoon at all.)

However, I thought I just might mention here that there are lots of New Rules about your donations during the GR, and it would be a great benefit if you would pass along to your friends a few tips on how to pack books. (Because YOU would never do such a thing yourself, but Aunt Vicki always has been unpredictable.)

When packing nice, clean books from your living room, do not go downstairs and get those boxes which have been sitting in the corner where the wall leaks. (No, honest: I often get nice, clean books packed in old, moldy boxes.)

Oh, and those books you had stacked in the basement where the wall leaks? No particular need to pack those up. (No, honest: I had a donor tell me “This is probably really valuable. Oh, don’t take it out of the bag: you don’t want to inhale the mold.”)

Sometimes a paperback cover will stick to another paperback cover because the books have been at the bottom of the pile, and the weight pressed them together. These will generally pop apart with a gentle tug. If you have three books stuck together at the bottom and you cannot pull them apart without the covers ripping, this is another matter. Use these for some sort of art installation: do not bring them round here.

That book Grandma used for the last fifty years to prop open the living room window on nice cool autumn days is REALLY more valuable to you as a family memento than to any customer who comes to the Book Fair. (Think about it: how many people in this part of town will have the same size window as Grandma?)

These are things which did not, of course, come up during our Conservation Training, but merely random suggestions from the Book Fair Manager, a low, suspicious type. But I think they should be taken seriously during the GR…and preferably after.

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