Thursday, March 24, 2011

On The Fleeting Nature of Fame

It's possible that many of my readers are not in the library profession - possible but not probable. For those who aren't, I need to preface this post with an explanation of "weeding." It's one of my favorite and most difficult of job duties. Libraries pride themselves on keeping an up-to-date, relevant collection. They are also notoriously lacking in space!

The neat freak in me really loves cleaning up the shelves, getting rid of dog-eared, outdated paperbacks and odoriferous (smokers, you have no idea the damage you do), food stained hardcovers, but the book lover in me sobs to see so many beautiful tomes that have rarely been opened. Naturally, the ones that haven't been checked out in years are the ones I would want to read: the Booker finalists, the Pen/Faulkner award nominees, novels written by authors no longer on our radar screens, who once stood before adoring fans reading passages from literature they hoped would stand the test of time.

So why doesn't it? Are readers too lazy? Do they want to stick with the same old/same old and never venture into something new and wonderful? Where are the readers like my mother who spent hours, after school or on Saturdays, three noisy little readers in tow, perusing the shelves at the Mason Library looking for that little gem?

If I could, I'd take every single one of these "gems" home and create my "retirement library" where I'll one day sit and read for hours playing catch up. If there is any kind of existence after this one, I hope all these unloved books will join me as I read and blog into eternity. In the meantime, perhaps they will reach an unexpected, grateful, audience somewhere out there.


P. J. Grath said...

Sally, some of those gems may be scooped up by dealers at your next book sale, and a few might even end up in a real bookstore. My bookstore originally stocked only used books, and used books are still about 90% of my inventory. Gems!

As for these authors being forgotten, I think we need to look down the road a couple of generations. The most popular writers of any generation are not always the ones whose work stands the test of time.

I understand that librarians must respond to what their patrons want. At least once, though, I've told a librarian that a book on the sale shelf should be kept in the library holdings. I like to think of the library as a repository of literature and knowledge rather than a revolving door of transient taste. I know, I know! I'm not a librarian! And in my bookstore, where I pay the bills, I can probably indulge my own values to a greater extent than you can--even though I must also pay attention to what sells, since this is how I make a living.

I like your blog. Glad I stumbled on it today.

Sallyb said...

Dear P.J.
Thank you so much for reading. How on earth did you find me? I so love what you said about the library being a depository for literature and knowledge rather than a revolving door.

I sometimes feel like a dinosaur when I express that romantic view of librarianship in the digital age.

What a marvelous website you have!Please share my blog with any eclectic readers you know. I'm sure it's a huge list!

Phaedosia said...

I hear you. I'm in the process of weeding my poor little Branch for what feels like must be the first time in it's forty year history. On more than one occasion, I've given one of those dusty "gems" a pity checkout just to give them a circ stat. I've found some great books that way!

P. J. Grath said...

Sally, I found you by clicking on "Next Blog" at the top of my own page. It's a great way to find other book-related blogs, and I've found some good ones that way.

Sallyb said...

Hi Phaedosia, Lovely to have you reading. That's the librarians' guilty little secret, isnt' it? Checking out a book just to protect it? Luckily our system now has a contract with
so at least the things we don't keep go to helping someone else.

Phaedosia said...

Wow--just checked out Better World Books. That's really neat! I'm going to pass that on to our Friends group. (Not sure what they do with the books they don't sell.)