Just the Facts, Ma'am | Page 78 | Newberry

Just the Facts, Ma'am

If you’re interested at all in why there was no blog on Monday (I know you wept all morning), I was off doing my duly-do, answering a summons to jury duty. In the end, it was decided that justice would be best served if I went back to the Newberry and sorted books, but at least it took them all day to make up their minds about that.

One of the things stressed during the choosing of the jury was that we were going to be asked to judge only facts. I am completely unsuited for this due to my profession, because the facts are the last thing I want to be working with.

Well, let’s backpedal. There are facts and there are facts. If the valuable edition of this book has a big dot like a period in the middle of a sentence on page 88, that’s a fact I need to know. It’s the facts presented in the text that don’t concern me.

“Don’t you know that book is a pack of lies?” I get asked, in various stages of outrage and decorum. “How can you put it in nonfiction?”

Well, one reason is that it says “Nonfiction” here on the cover.

“But every fact in there has been disproven in the last ten years!”

Yeah, but I’ve been working this line now for twenty-five years. And I find if a book is totally discredited in ten years, it’ll be proven correct again ten years after that, and will be pronounced completely fraudulent five years after THAT. I can’t spend my time evaluating the truthfulness of each book. Not only would it take up time, but I’d need twice as much space. Right next to a small “Political Science” section, I’d have to add a huge “Political Opinion” section. The table for “History” would have to sit next to “Conjecture”. And “Art” would be tiny compared to “I Don’t Know What It Is But I Know I Don’t Like It”.

It works the other way, too: “You should put that novel in Biography; it’s based on her life.”

There are whole weeks when I wonder why we didn’t just sort ‘em by “Red Books”, “Blue Books”, “Brown Books”, and such. Ten to one I’d hear from some volunteer who wants to make sure the crimson books don’t get mixed with the maroon ones.*

*Maroon Books: Books you’d take with you to a desert island.

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