Ah me, I was thinking of BVDs this weekend. That’s Before Virus Days, the new nostalgia trend Sunday was Father’s Day and today is my mother’s birthday. Never mind what her age would be: I can hear what she’d say about it “What a ridiculous number!” And this is also about the time every year when my voice messages, be they on voicemail, a cassette recorder, or a piece of paper, would all be about “How much longer are you taking books for this year’s Book fair?”
Nowadays, of course, those messages are COMPLETELY different. People understand the pressures under which we operate, and don’t ask such things. Instead, they ask, “So when will you start taking books again for next year’s Book Fair?”
Since I can’t write a blog about how you need to stop dropping off your travel guides to Berwyn on the Fourth of July weekend, I may as well blog about when you can start.
There is a committee hard at work on this project, a committee calling itself the Nice Obstructive Terms You’ll Enjoy Team (N.O.T.Y.E.T.) I asked them for a projection on when it will be safe enough to allow people to dump bags and boxes on the dock at Lampe Landing once more. They issued an eight-page report which, summarized for the space allowable in this column, comes to “What are you? Nuts?”
See, we don’t even know for sure when we’ll allow People in the Library again. Yes, I know. Given your choice, you’d think a library would prefer books. But you NEED people, at least to pull the books in off the dock so there’s room for the tour bus of penguins to offload. The joint needs to be safe for staff first, and no one wants to crowd the place until we’ve got all the necessary protective measures set up. Come the day, staff will be allowed into the building in a three-tiered plan: first the Really Really Essential Staff, then the Really Essential Staff, and then the Merely Essential Staff. That third phase really depends on seeing no Virus Vampire Attacks in the second or first phases.
Once we’ve proven our essential people won’t be killing each other by touching books, then we’ll start allowing the public in, again in an orderly manner, sort of along the lines of People With Assigned Study Carrels first, then People With Reader’s Cards, and finally, People Who Just Want To See What the Newberry Looks Like Inside. And IF these people all behave themselves (i.e., don’t drop dead), then and only then will we be taking your Herb Alpert LPs and DaVinci Codes once more.
It seems like a long, arduous process, but look at it this way. That big sign outside “You Won’t Believe What’s Here” isn’t meant to refer to deadly diseases. A hardworking crowd of experts keeps trying to position the Newberry’s reputation as a mighty cultural institution of lasting merit. Their job will not be made easier if we become known as the place where the Covids struck and provoked a whole new wave of lockdowns, closing all the bars and barbershops again. And let’s face it, if an investigation is launched and it is discovered that it was YOUR copy of The Help which introduced the virus into an otherwise squeaky clean Newberry, well, you’re going to feel mighty silly. Oh, you only sneezed on it once, and you washed your hands right afterward? Tell ‘em that at Starbuck’s when they have to start denying people their iced coffee this summer.
We are all planning to get everyone into the Bookshop once more, and the Reading Room, and the Exhibit Gallery, and yes, even the Book Fair. We’re just taking it nice and slow, to see what our weekly expenditure on hand sanitizer is going to be. You cannot donate books until we get through the first Phases without mishap. Rest assured that we will cheer mightily as we move from Phase to Phase: you’ll hear us.
And Phase 1 is set to start…well, any day now. We await word from the Governor and the Mayor and the CDC and the WHO and all those folks. Hang onto your books until further notice. In fact, why not take ‘em back into the living room and read ‘em all again? How many times is too many with a book like The Divine…what? You can’t color over the ones you’ve colored already?
As I was saying: Ah me.