Containing Yourself II | Newberry

Containing Yourself II

This time last week, you may recall, we were discussing containers for books. We covered some of the basic requirements for boxes and bags, and many a nice donation we’ve had since then. (What happened? Do the temperatures of Spring automatically make you think, “Ah, what a beautiful day to take all those polka LPs to the Library?”)

But I can see, from some of the deliveries that we missed a couple of points which deserved to be stressed. Let me see whether I can express these things without getting too technical.

Bags do not need to be fastened shut. Some of you have done your very best to render shopping bags more secure by tying the handles together with twine, wire, twist ties from bread bags, and ribbon. Garbage bags, which we’ve asked you to avoid, sometimes arrive with their drawstrings tied into triple and quadruple knots. Yes, I KNOW you have to keep your Significant Other from seeing that you are giving us that collection of poems from Playboy, but you could put THAT in a plain brown bag. (And don’t use staples, don’t use staples. Don’t use staples. I was planning other uses for the fingers I’ll lose just trying to pick that bag up.)

We don’t really need to have the boxes sealed, either, though this is a matter of personal taste. Some people like to tape the box shut just as a note of triumph—“There! Finished another one!” Other people feel boxes are more easily carried if the top is secured. I have not read the ENTIRE Internet, but I haven’t seen anything that proves this case. But do as you please in this matter. (No one I can recall has ever sent in a box that was stapled shut, but don’t be the first. We’re not the Guinness Book of World Records.)

Last week, we had several people who donated very large boxes filled with books. This can get painful. Toward the end of the week and several times this week, however, we had a different problem: really big boxes that were NOT filled with books. There’s nothing like bracing yourself to pick up a U-Haul Medium and find it contains only five paperbacks and a hardcover Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

This sort of thing happens through several entirely logical thought processes. One kind of donor thinks, “These will be IMPOSSIBLE when I fill them!” Instead of going on to what I would consider the next logical idea—Where can I get smaller boxes?—the donor thinks, “Better not put more than about twenty books in each box.”

Another kind of mind likes to play at OUR game, and sort the books by subject into boxes. All the paperback mysteries go in this box, all those collections of folk songs bought in the Sixties go into another box, and all that Lithuanian history goes into the third box. If there are no more than five books ON Lithuanian history, that’s the way it goes. At least they’re sorted.

The problem with either of these modes of packing books is that the result takes up a LOT of room. We’ve had people make two or three trips bringing us boxes that could all have been loaded into one carload if smaller, fuller boxes had been used. And a nearly empty box isn’t very stable. It’ll knock a poor book fair manager down if he picks it up and turns, only to have all nine books slide into the farthest corner of the box.

And, sadly, boxes which are nearly empty do not support much weight. It is one of the sad facts of life that if you loaded the boxes into your car with the heavy ones on the bottom and the lighter ones on top, the lighter ones will come out first, to have the heavier ones stacked on top. Being almost empty, the boxes underneath will start to crush, causing the pile to topple. This looks frightening, turns your nice rectangles into squished obloids that are hard to carry, and dumps your treasured books on the floor. (Unless you taped the lid shut, of course. There IS sometimes a reason to do this, even if it’s not a very GOOD reason.)

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