Holding Fourth

We are nearing the Fourth of July, and you know what that means: music by Sousa, speeches by statesmen, smoke from the grill, flashing lights in the sky.

It also means “Please stop dropping of books at the Newberry.”

We do mention this every year, and every year, there is dismay on the faces of our friends, who cry out, “But we thought you were having a Book Fair!”

We are, barbecued banana. Among other things, this means I must clear away everything in the Book Fair workroom, so it can magically become that excessively clean and tidy checkout area. Nice as your books are, they are going to be very much in the way as I try to tie up loose ends. See, there are plenty of books right now (did I mention those seven estates we had come in since the end of April?) and having you pull up in your station wagon—I beg your pardon, your utility vehicle–doesn’t….

It goes like this. Uncle Blogsy comes to work, bright-eyed and ready to mine the mountains of reading material. He is thinking, “Today’s the day I pack up all those children’s books about hedgehogs. I’ll just….”

There is a knock on the door. “Hi! Here are those fifty years’ worth of Britannica yearbooks I called in March to say I was bringing in! It only took six garbage bags!”

Uncle Blogsy hauls these in, and tries to find a place for them where they will not block the back door or the path to the elevator. He does not sell Britannica yearbooks unless they are accompanied by the encyclopaedia itself, but he also does not throw books into the recycling bin while the donor is lingering within eyesight. He starts back toward the hedgehog books, but notes a leather spine on the way.

“That,” he says to himself, “Is the nineteenth century book of hair tonic recipes for barbers. I want to check the price on that. I’ll just light the kerosene in my computer and….”

The phone rings. It is the front desk guard calling to say someone will be coming around to the dock with a load of books. There is no sense starting to work on something until the person arrives, but the donor must finish getting that receipt at the front desk, and then come back outside to the car. Uncle Blogsy waits: there is also no sense throwing those yearbooks away yet. It becomes awkward to explain to a new donor why he’s throwing away books.

“Hi! These were left over after our garage sale! Some of them are really old!”

Yes, and so are the bags you packed them in, turnip pudding. You used all the bags that still had handles for your customers, did you? The books smell rather of basement, too, but aren’t those some Judy Bolton mysteries? Those, if not actually moldy, will go nicely in that box of children’s books with the hedgehog collection.

Uncle Blogsy looks around for a decent box. Maybe if he prices the Judy Boltons with the hedgehogs, he can finish up at least one box before….

Someone bangs on the door as if it is a bomb shelter and the sirens have gone off. In the fifty seconds it takes Uncle Blogsy to get to the door, this person manages to bang several more times, each time nearly bringing down the wall of the loading dock.

It is a small woman with white hair and a wire cart. “Hi! I have these art books for you.”

This neurosis is my own: I never can understand people who call magazines “books”. The bag the Horizon magazines are in is somehow two inches wider than the cart on all sides. It can be struggled out, with might and main and, fortunately, it is a good, strong bag that doesn’t break. Or perhaps this is unfortunate.

“I need that bag back so I can refill it for you.”

Taking the box he was going to use for Judy and the hedgehogs (and wouldn’t THAT be a name for a rock band?), Uncle Blogsy unpiles the Horizons, spotting the cobwebs AND the nice little Museum of Modern Art catalog. He writes out a receipt for the lady, who describes her donation as “one full shopping bag”. He supposes the IRS has seen worse. Setting the box of Horizons on top of that box of Sweet Valley High books, he considers putting Sweet Valley High in with Judy and remembers he no longer has that box available. At this moment, the uppermost garbage bag of Britannica yearbooks, in response to some tremor in the New Madrid fault, comes cascading onto his feet.

Telling the garbage bag precisely what he thinks of it and its parents, he snatches up the bag and starts for the recycling bin, only to be stopped by a knock at the door that leads into the library.

“We need some help out here! A lady’s bringing her set of encyclopedias up the front steps three volumes at a time.”

He sets the bag down very gently. Turning, and murmuring a silent prayer that this is NOT a set which will match the yearbooks, he starts for the door.

See what I mean? If you guys don’t hold off, I’ll never get to the hedgehogs.

Comments

Very subtle, Uncle B.
Happy anniversary as the Book Fair Manager, Uncle Blogsy! I think this blog entry perfectly describes a day in your life, especially at this time of year. The Newberry is lucky to have you!

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