GUT Check (Good Useless Trivia)

I don’t know whether we’ve planned to release any Book Fair trivia on our postcards or bookmarks this year, so here’s a fix for those of you in need.

2013 will be the first year in nearly a quarter of a century in which all four digits are different. (The last time this happened was 1987. This has nothing to do with the Book Fair, but I’m going to keep pointing it out until somebody says it’s interesting. My mother was interested, but I’m not sure I can count her.)

In 1992, Budget Rent-a-Car was the Official Car Rental Agency of the Newberry Library Book Fair. No, I don’t know how that deal came about.  I think we could do that again and have a booth for quick car rental if you buy more books than you can carry home.

There was no Literature section until about 1989; it was all Fiction and then someone suggested we pull out the Great Names. For the record, I was agin it. The person who thought of it said “We’ll sell more books.” I said, “It’ll cause a lot of arguments.” We were both right.

One of those other ideas that didn’t quite work as well as that one was the idea of selling subject sponsorship at the Book Fair. For $100 (that was money back in 1994) you could have your logo hung beneath our table signs: we expected travel agencies to want their name on the Travel section, athletic shoe companies to underwrite the Sports section, pharmaceuticals companies would fight to buy the Health and Medicine section, and it was going to be wonderful. After about three thousand phone calls, we had rounded up three sponsors. We made up about seven imaginary corporations, so those three signs wouldn’t look lonely. We apparently didn’t make back enough money to pay for the phone bill and gave up.

Two local authors were so happy to see us selling their books that they signed copies for us on the spot. (Honest and for truly, by the way, a customer bought one of these books while the author was there, and the volunteer asked “Do you want him to write his name in it?” “What for?” the woman demanded. “Why, it’s his book,” said the volunteer. “It is NOT,” snapped the woman, “I just paid for it!” And she flounced away.)

One author wrote a miniature book to be sold only at the Book Fair booth during preview night at the Very Merry Bazaar, presided over by a hand-decorated teddy bear who was the star of the book. The lights were lowered so much to create an intimate party atmosphere, however, that no one saw the teddy bear or the book.

Our silent auctions at the Book Fair have been a mixed success. One year (about 1990) we wrote to the First Lady, hoping for a letter we could sell, and got pre-printed cards instead. Two volunteers started the bidding just to show how it worked, and wound up winning the cards. Last year, of course, we auctioned off that beautiful book quilt, and got a good price for it, only to lose the name and address of the winner. If that person happens to read this, please let us know. A quilt’s more important in January than July, right?

We recently had a donation which, besides the books, included a small container of buckshot, an atomizer, and a wristwatch.  If you donated the watch by mistake, you can have it back by describing it to me AND explaing the buckshot.  (I already have a customer for the buckshot; it will be turned into a booksnake.  That’s another blog.)

Hey, I know what went wrong with the table sponsorship.  We should have goen cross-genre: an automobile company could sponsor Business, a pharmaceutical company could do Political Science, a tobacco company could do Health and Medicine…it’d be great.  And in election years, everybody running for office could pitch in for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

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