Among the other great joys of your Uncle Blogsy’s existence is fielding questions about the Book Fair this July. I don’t say that the National Enquirer has been calling, but I DO get a lot of concerned Newberry visitors saying, “I bet that’s going to be a nightmare: setting up in a whole new space.”
This is mildly encouraging, I suppose. For most people, Book Fair set-up is a myth: Book Fairs just spring into being without any planning or thought: just toss a bunch of tables into a room, spread books out on them, and the money rolls in. (At least, this is what I have always felt is the mindset of those people who donate books during the Book Fair by just bringing them in and leaving them on tables.)
Well, there are going to be challenges, for workers and customers alike. Although our big room (Room 6) promises to be much the same as it has been, these last twenty or so years, all the other rooms are being shuffled. So those of us who remember, “Foreign Language is always Right There” will be stunned for a moment when we realize Right There isn’t there now.
But we will contrive. Our main problem is where to hide things until the middle of the Book Fair, so we can bring them out to gladden the hearts of people who can’t make it before Saturday. Many of our hiding places are gone now, too. But we will contrive.
If you want to talk about disastrous Book Fair set-ups, I suppose it is safe now to talk about what went on behind the scenes in 199—I forget. But that was the year the folks in the Events Department came to me with a plea. Events are the folks who work so hard to bring in money during the fifty boring Non-Book-Fair weeks. They had been offered a goodly sum of money to rent out the Big Room to a major donor who wanted his company to hold its Casino Night there on the Saturday before the Book Fair.
The boxes of books and the tables, you understand, were coming in that Thursday. So everything for the Big Room would have to be stashed somewhere. We reasoned that our Volunteer Set-Up Crew, which was due in on Monday, could work in the other rooms while we got things ready for them in the Big Room. So we said, “Okay. Go ahead.”
But then we got word that our Director of Exhibits, a woman of dignity who could never understand why a grown-up library would have a Book Fair or, if it did, why it had to use HER galleries for it, was not going to give up her galleries until closing hour on Saturday, and wanted to spend Monday dismantling her exhibit. This meant that the largest Book Fair room would not be available for setting up before Monday afternoon, and we could not even put tables in the next three largest spaces before Tuesday morning.
THAT, deep-fried sushi, was, as our supervisor noted, “A calamity of monumental proportions”.
Yet we contrived. We stacked all the tables and boxes in the space you know as Room 2, and set up everything that went into Room 1. If all else failed, we would cram all the volunteers in our smallest room and tell them to set up while we made ready in the others.
A small group of Newberry employees (Uncle Blogsy included) then got permission to come into the building on Sunday. When the Casino Night was cleared away, we set up the tables and boxes in the Big Room. NOW we had places for volunteers to dive into books on Monday.
Which is what they did. The Mystery setter-uppers were disappointed that they had to work with mere Literature until Tuesday, but they understood that we were contriving with a calamity, and pitched right in. The second the galleries were clear (and it didn’t seem to us that the Director was in any special hurry) we set up tables and moved in boxes, until rooms two through five were ready to be put together.
THAT was excitement. THIS year we should be dealing with mere confusion. And that’s hardly anything new to OUR crew.