What the Seekers Sought | Newberry

What the Seekers Sought

The prize for Cutest Question asked during the Book Fair might have gone to the little boy who, bored with his mother, who was going through ALL the cookbooks, wandered across the aisle to Collectibles and asked an innocent bystander (one of my regular customers) “What’s this book about?” When she told him, he moved to the next book. “What’s THIS book about?”

This was cute for the first three or four books, and after that she was thinking of charging his mother babysitting fees.

But it’s like this at every Book Fair. You have the people who want to get an answer and then rush on their way, and you have the people who want to open a dialogue. (I meet this latter kind most often when I am wearing the tag that says “ASK ME”. This year it was “What is the meaning of life?” I had to point out that my tag just said “ASK ME”; there was no guarantee that I would answer.)

As usual, we had our requests for certain authors–Stephen King, Miss Read, Carlos Castaneda—and some for particular categories—Photography, Art, Collectibles, Dance. Other people wanted specific formats: prints, sheet music, posters, VHS tapes, DVDs, LPs, audiocassettes. Sorry the Books on Disc got left off the handout map; no, we can’t just put up a sign that says Audiobooks because that’s trademarked. Three people asked where I had comic books. (And after last year, too, when we had half a dozen people ask for Graphic Novels, so this year we HAD a separate section for Graphic Novels, only this having a new section confused some of our setter-uppers, who accidentally made it hard to find and, after two days, so few were left, someone just picked them all up and stuck them in Science Fiction anyhow, which I suppose is better than the year they took all the graphic novels which had been shelved in Science Fiction and Mystery and shoved them into Children’s, so that…where were we?)

Other people were after things more specific, but easy enough to indicate: Tarot cards, old Hardy Boys books, mysteries featuring Phryne Fisher (someone fished put a phone and looked up the author), Avant Garde magazine, Interview Magazine, Dungeons and Dragons, books in Arabic, What the Waves Know, or Black’s Law Dictionary. A few invited rather longer debate. Easy books on learning Italian: I can point to the Italian books, but after that you have to decide. Christmas books could take you to four or five categories, whereas books on lynching can be found in only two or three. (In both cases, the questioner had TRIED all the logical places; each was hoping I’d suggest something they hadn’t thought of.)

The category most people had taxonomic (sorting) problems with this year was Foreign Language. “Would a Bible in Latin be in Religion or Foreign Language?” (Foreign Language, though, yes, I understand: a dead language can’t be fully foreign.) “Would books on learning English for a non-native speaker be in Foreign Language?” (Depends on if the main text is in English—for teachers here—or in another language—for teachers there.) “Are children’s books in Spanish in Children or Foreign Language?” (Check both, but they SHOULD be in Foreign Language.)

And, as usual, there are people who pause just to gladden the Manager’s heart. “Does that 6 o’clock closing time mean you should be GOING to checkout at six, or DONE with checkout at six?” (You are our kind of maniac, sir.) “I didn’t feel the need to come today because I was so happy with what I bought yesterday, but look!” (And you, ma’am.) “I wouldn’t think of buying this—I had one once and I gave it away—but just out of curiosity, what would it cost?” (You’re one of us too, friend; and I won’t smirk when you take that to checkout.) “Where’s that bibliography you wrote about in this January blog?” (Good luck with that.)

Well, I hope everybody found MOST everything they were looking for, or something nearly as good. (This is the advantage of Book Fairs over Kindles: you can look along the table and find three other things you didn’t know you needed.) The bamboo toothbrushes sold, the Yagua blowgun sold, and with the second highest total since 1985, somebody must have found something.

And you should see what’s been coming in for 2019. Tune in next week for our next thrilling installment.

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