In the Year 2525

There is STILL TIME to make a donation to the Annual Fund during our Challenge Grant period. (If we raise $100,000 by June 30, it’ll be matched two-for-one, thus tripling the impact of your money.) You can do this online by going to our webpage, moving the cursor to “Support the Newberry”, and clicking on “Donate Now.” From there, you’re on your own, but somebody has to help pay that fine for burning banana boxes in the parking lot. (What’s the world coming to when you can’t vent your temper on banana boxes on your own property?)

We are not yet to the point at which you can donate to the Book Fair in this fashion, but once every book on the planet has been digitized, who knows? One day, you’ll just click on our website and offload all the book files you don’t want cluttering your database, and get a computer-generated receipt for them. It’ll have all the joys of donating real books, particularly if you accidentally download some of those photo files, like the gentry who forget they’ve left their family pictures in a book.

Not one to let the grass grow under my bookcases, I am already planning the Newberry Library Book Fair of 2060, which will deal solely in text downloads, video downloads, and audio downloads. But instead of looking at some boring list of titles, you’ll click on “Virtual Book Fair” and find yourself standing before a pair of glass doors. Behind you, you will hear people discussing what they bought last year and how overpriced or underpriced it was (You can click on “Positive Crowd” or “Negative Crowd”. Negative Crowd makes it more of a game.)

You will NOT be allowed into the catalog before 4 P.M. CST, and then you can mouse your way into our virtual lobby, where a voice will call “Walk, Don’t Run!” as you decide whether to turn left, for arts, sciences, and so forth, or right, for history, literature, music, and anything that fit into the corners. Depending on which crowd you clicked, you may have to elbow your way past large, uncooperative people with strollers and backpacks to get to those vintage downloads of Billy Ray Cyrus (who will, by 2060, be in the Classics section.) As you pause before the Chicago section, you may hear a voice cry, “Young Man, what is your ethnicity?” You can now click on the section of your choosing and start downloading your purchases, or you can turn and click on virtual volunteers or even virtual customers for a chat (or argument: which crowd did you click?)

Tired? Filled up a minimicrochipmemorystick with downloads and want to pause? Go to our virtual squirreling section, where those squirrel statues we use now will be animated, and will run up to you with a piece of paper and a clothespin. After you’ve squirreled your first load, ask a smiling virtual volunteer in a virtual red apron for another bag to go back to the shelves and download the 30th through 45th seasons of “The Bachelorette”. Dodge the grumpy virtual manager in his virtual stained apron, who is gunning for people in the crowd who donated downloads in bananabytes. Make your way to the ramp in Virtual Check-Out, and smile at the guard who tells you not to click “backspace”. If you forgot something, you will need to click “Exit” and then start over at the glass door screen.

For now, if you want to support the Newberry online, it’s going to have to be a matter of finding that “Donate Now” spot and giving mere money. The Virtual Book Fair and its sales of used and antiquarian digital books is still in the future.

I just wrote this to kindle some excitement. 

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