More Superlatives.

Today I would like to salute the Most Controversial Signs of the Newberry Library Book Fair, four signs which once upon a time lived just a few bare inches (in summer, bare feet) from each other near the door of our receiving room.

No Re-Entry: This sign was hated for several reasons. Grammarians disliked it because for years it said “No Re-Entry Before Checkout”. If you haven’t checked out, you haven’t left, noted the ultra-pure, so how CAN you re-enter?

This is the infamous sign which requires a customer, having paid, to go out the back door and not back up the ramp into the main sale. This has caused more screaming than you’d think imaginable from people who planned to pay and meet someone at the front door. Going through the library to do this is air-conditioned, and shortens the trip by about a block. The rule (and sign) is there partly so nobody can check out and then go slip another book into the bag, but partly for traffic control: people moving up the ramp and going against the current.

One customer snapped at our Superintendent of Facilities, “There! I’m going out the back door! Are you satisfied I’m not a thief?”

He was grieved. “I never said you had to do it because I thought you were a thief, Ma’am. I said you had to do it because that is our procedure.” Just so.

Cash or Checks Only: We had a lot of customers who came to checkout last year and were stunned to see this sign, when we kept advertising that we take credit cards. The intuitive leap required to understand that that particular station was cash or checks only, and that you needed to go to a different desk to pay with plastic was beyond some people on a sultry day.

9-11:30, 12-3 P.M.: This sign has been on the outside of the Receiving Room since roughly 1982, when the loading dock were built. It claims that our receiving room is not open for book deliveries after 3 P.M. This was true once upon a time but by and large came to an end at some point in the late 80s. Did you honestly think we’d say on all our Book Fair material that we like you to drop off books between about 8 and 4 and then close at 3? Think I’m that nasty? Why, thank you! I wish that the guidance counselor who claimed I’d never make it in business because I was too nice could hear you.

Danger! Hydrogen! (now retired) This was attached to a wall outside from about 1982 to about 2005. Back in the days when people went out on the dock to smoke it made for a great photo op. One day a delivery man told me, “I’m a volunteer fireman, and I have to tell you: if there IS hydrogen there, that sign is too small. If there isn’t any hydrogen, you want to get rid of the sign, because no fire department in the world is going to hang around a fire if there’s a chance of a hydrogen explosion.” There was no hydrogen, in fact (it’s a long, funny Newberry story, but I don’t believe it’s been declassified yet.) In any case, the sign came down.

Most Popular Sign: Books 1/2 price today. What else? 

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