So it says here that it was on October 3, 2005 that David Spadafora became the eighth President (or Librarian or CEO: the title has been “officially” changed just once, but the words do tend to get interchanged promiscuously) of the Newberry. Officially, his time in office ends today, not quite exactly fourteen years later. I am able to accept all of that except possibly the bit about fourteen years. It ought to take longer than this for fourteen years to go by, and I intend to write my Congressman about this.
There is much to be said, and much of it HAS been said, about those fourteen years, from the crash of 2008, when David did what he could to limit the damage and quell the panic, to the glories of the Quasquicentennial, when one of his chiefest roles was to answer the question “Quasqui-what?” Though it was his predecessor who dragged the Newberry, kicking and screaming, into the Computer Age, he was the President who saw the card catalog, the book request system, and a sizeable chunk of our advertising ease gently into the online world. He got to preside over, as far as I can recall, three major blizzards and two prime examples of a Polar Vortex, and, of course, the Grand Renovation, during which he was called upon, at various times, to explain the overall funding effort and the design of the chandeliers. Versatility is the name of the game.
But enough of this. What about his work with the Book Fair?
Well, he has shown versatility in that as well. He has actually worked checkout, which is good hands-on experience for any executive, watching, say, a member of staff pay for her purchase in pennies scrounged from the bottom of a purse. (We HAVE discussed making Newberry coin purses, but I can’t say this is a direct result of that experience.) This DID, I am told, lose us an occasional sale, when someone about to buy six copies of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood realized the head of the Library would be witnessing this.
He was not shy about being a customer, either, certainly one of the most rewarding ways to take part in a Book Fair. David is a Book Person, perfectly willing to take a look around and enjoy discovering a book he didn’t know existed on a subject of interest. That this has its usual result is indicated by his work as a Donor to the Book Fair, as old books have to give away to new acquisitions on that personal reading shelf (shelves/bookcases/rooms). And, as he prepares for his move out of Chicago, a certain amount of ballast needs to be dropped, and he knows just where excess books can go. (So our History section should be just as good next year as it was last month.)
Then, of course, there is his role as Administrator. The Chief Executive sets the tone for an organization, from top to toe. At times when the question is debated, David has come down on the side of those who feel the Book Fair is something the Newberry OUGHT to be doing. There have always been those who have scorned our efforts as mere money-grubbing, people who could support an exclusive auction of expensive books, but who cringe at the sight of a copy of the Da Vinci Code in the Newberry. (I sometimes cringe at the sight myself, but for other reasons.)
David’s attitude has always been a reinforcement of those who feel the Book Fair serves society generally (spreading literacy, stopping the flow of books to recycle bins) and the Newberry specifically (raising money, reminding people that they will not be asked to show their academic credentials before they walk through the door.) I called him a Book Person a few lines back; I do so again. He believes in the power of the book, or the information it holds, to work wonders in the world. During his fourteen years, he has held that the Book Fair was a useful part of the Newberry’s mission to do that (though we might occasionally disagree on where to stack books or whether to install a big neon sign saying “You Won’t Believe What’s For Sale!” over the front doors.)
So this salute to David Spadafora, as he sallies forth to write a few more books and mark up a few golf balls, is written in gratitude and respect. (And to remind him that if he misses some of the books he donated, he knows where he can buy them back, next July.)