Object Lesson IV | Page 79 | Newberry

Object Lesson IV

I have not yet listed thirty objects representative of the Newberry Book Fair, but I did not expect to. I don’t know what other objects say “Book Fair” to you.

Do you even notice the Lucite cases in Collectibles? I do, because I bought them and hauled them in, and haul them in and out of storage every year. But perhaps you move past them, more intent on finding that copy of The Settlement Cook Book on the wall opposite.

Maybe your heart glows each year at the sight of the heavy green velvet ropes that swing from the stanchions, dividing the hallway between the left lane to Checkout and the right lane to rooms 1 and 2, and the restrooms.

I could speak feelingly of marking pens and tape guns, but you can get through the Book Fair in style without ever seeing any of the three thousand or so cardboard boxes which have been packed and piled. YOUR warm Book Fair feeling may begin when you get our iconic Book Fair Map, with the list of subjects and list of sponsors. (And, until I threatened to lie on the floor and hold my breath until I turn purple, a request to donate more books. You wouldn’t like me when I’m purple; people don’t.)

Maybe it’s the plastic bags from Potash Brothers that make you realize you’re here again this year. Or, if you come on Preview Night, it may be those deluxe bags that Whole Foods sends over for the first three hundred or so customers. Those are the closest we’ve come since the 90s to our famous Book Fair bags, and I suspect one or two people pay the price of the preview just to get one.

Maybe you come every year to check what’s in the little metal stand for miniature books (the stand was given to use years ago by a manager at the A.C. “Also Celebrated” McClurg Bookstore.) You won’t see a lot of miniature books in it because we have a customer who generally shows up the first night and buys them all to go into the miniature bookcases he builds for another not-for-profit organization to sell. But he does leave a few.

Maybe it’s the mosaic floor and ivory stairs you see in our lobby, or some of our memorable amenities: the old brass drinking fountain, the usually switched-off vending machines (we don’t want open cups of coffee during the sale, see), or our restrooms. (Please do not feel the need to email me with reasons you find our restrooms memorable.)

Perhaps you sigh with nostalgia each year as you step down into checkout to see the massive old tables with our talliers and checkers behind them, diligent with tally sheets and our world-renowned credit card machines (they DO work, and our checkers DO know how to use them, AND change the paper AND change the ribbon inside. That story Aunt Booney told you was all lies.) Maybe, like any right-minded person, you cannot wait to see our squirrel statues marking our equally famous squirreling sections. (This is where you can stash your first few bagsful while you go out and buy more. I have had complaints from some about the staring eyes of some of these squirrels. I would find it more alarming if a plastic squirrel winked at me, but it takes all kinds.)

Think on these things while you’re shopping, and let us know what it is that says Book Fair to you: we can be tweeted, texted, emailed, or telephoned, and you can always drop a note off somewhere if you’re really old school. Tell us what means Book Fair to you, oatmeal lasagna, whether it’s the old trees as you step into the parking lot or the unpaid phone bill you have to ignore until next payday because you spent all your money on paperback science fiction. Because you’re an unforgettable part of the tradition too (besides being a source of ideas for blogs this fall.)

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