What's Up, Dock?

This is another one of those things I have mentioned before, but it bears repeating. I went to get three bags of books out of a donor’s car and then walked around the dock and picked up the five bags he had lined up on the stairs leading to the President’s Door. He was glad someone had spotted him doing this and told him where the loading dock was.

I’m not sure why I get so many donations at that little door, but from what people tell me, I’ve made up a theory. Somewhere on the old Interweb, word seems to have gone out that to bring books to the Newberry, you need to come to a door and ring a bell. The President’s Door is the only door on the outside of the building that comes with a bell. I’m sure I always tell people to come to my door and use the phone next to it, but they have this bell so firmly in their heads that when they see a doorbell, they figure I’m right behind the door. All that’s behind that door, chive chewing gum, is stairs. If you remember that, you will remember it is the wrong place. I am not about to ask you to leave books in a spot which means my hauling them all up stairs.

A lot of people, too, like to bring their books in through the glass doors that face the parking lot, and leave them on the bench just inside. That bench is for our employees who skate to work; they can take off the skates and move on into the building without marking up the brick floors. (I’m kidding: we wear skates to work only in January and February. The rest of the year that’s where our battalion of rottweilers sits, waiting for people to bring books to the wrong door.

I was reminiscing last week with someone who had not seen the Newberry before its renovations and told the sad story of a donation of the 1990s. One day, I got a message that someone had left books for me out back, but had missed the dock. The boxes had been left at the top of the stairs. I knew what that meant, and strolled out around the dock to pick up the boxes of books at the President’s Door. And there were no books at the President’s Door.

I was young and innocent in those days. (Well, at least younger and innocenter than I am now.) I went in by the glass doors to see if someone had dropped off books on the bench (which made it the top of the basement stairs) or at the top of the stairs leading into the corridor outside the East Hall (Ruggles Hall, to you.)

Back in the days when all four glass doors worked and we had not yet added a triangular brick supplement to the back of the building, the place where that stands was parking spaces in front of a blank wall. The only real feature that stood out was a door on the second floor, and a long metal staircase that ran along the wall to the pavement. This was the fire exit from Ruggles Hall (the East Hall, on those days.)

Yah, you betcha, lutefisk lasagna. Somebody had actually carried books up one story on an external metal bookcase and left them there. Where our message mentioned “ramp” and “loading dock”, they somehow heard “stairs” and “door that doesn’t even have a doorbell.” I hope you will not be devastated when I tell you I did not carry them down the same stairs. No, somebody opened the fire door and brought them inside into the East (Ruggles) Hall.

So the books got in, right? So the donor wasn’t making such a terrible mistake after all, since everything worked out just fine, no? All I say is that it was lucky there wasn’t a fire or fire drill that day. What a headline it would have made: library patron runs out of library and dies in a ten foot plunge after tripping over a copy of Looking Out For Number 1.

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