While I Was Out | Newberry

While I Was Out

Once again, I was proud to see that you did not merely sit around drinking wassail and singing songs to keep away the winter chill while I was off in the wilds of Iowa. A good many of you kept warm by hauling books (and paintings and bags of glue sticks and who knows what-all else.) We had sort of expected this. What struck several people with amazement, though, was the positive avalanche of donations on December 29. I was, as mentioned, working on my tan in the northeastern Iowa tropics, but it sounds as though there was a veritable surge (that kind of donation fever which leads to people waiting politely in line to unload boxes until the carload that got there first is unloaded.) There are several theories about why December 29 was chosen for this honor.

TAXES: It is a traditional belief that people want to get their receipt for donation before the year’s end, so as to deduct the monetary value from their tax for the year. December 29 being the last day of the year any of the library was open, this was an obvious choice for book dropping off. Every time I mention this, however, a resident expert shakes his or her head and says, “Not so. Those changes in the tax laws, you know.” They’re always a little vague about which changes, and I was informed several times by newspeople in Iowa that the changes in tax laws had not, in fact, had much of an impact on charitable giving. But the verdict on this explanation must remain “Unproven”.

FOOTBALL: There are people who become extremely excited about the NFL playoffs, especially when the Bears are involved. (They can relax now.) But it is better, if you are hosting a football watching party, to clear space for all the beverages and snacks AND at the same time remove any obvious things which can be hurled at a rival fan at the other end of the couch. This would explain the large coffeetable books donated, but no so much the paperback mysteries (which would be hoarded by non-football fans who retire to the basement until the game is over.)

JANUARY: January has traditionally been a no-donations month, but with the renovation and our move around the building, we have decided to restrict our “Please don’t give us books” period to July and August. Nonetheless, some old-timers may very well have remembered that we used to discourage donations in January, and wanted to get the books in during December. This is an attractive hypothesis, but must, I think, be rejected on the grounds that many of these gentry dropped off books in January when it WAS a No-Donations Month. So why should they hold back when it isn’t?

CHICAGO POLITICS: It isn’t just Santa Claus who is asking if you were good last year, and not just the Elf On the Shelf prying into your affairs. Before the investigators raid the offices, a number of you may have decided to clean out the issues of Stripes magazine and books inscribed to you by your favorite City Council members. Or do you want to state in court just WHY you own all those copies of The DaVinci Code?

SNOW: Perhaps the crowds were hurrying to take advantage of the relatively mild winter and get books donated before the snow began to fly. A trunk loaded with The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood may give you added traction on icy roads, but hauling them from the trunk to the Donation Missile at the Library when the wind child is thirty below can freeze your fingers right down to your toes. It was warm enough on December 29, and that could have been a contributing factor in those contributions. This is actually one of the least satisfying explanations of all. The forecast for January, 2019 holds very little hope of snow vacation for those of us at the Newberry, with several days suggesting that we were worrywarts to get that winter coat out of the closet at all. “Nope,” a cabbie told me, “It just doesn’t snow in Chicago these days.”

Except when it’s snowing books. I’ll tell you what I find as we shovel out from under your generosity.

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