Keep 'Em Coming In | Newberry

Keep 'Em Coming In

Now, we love books and we love our donors, within reason. Sometimes a great deal of work is involved, but it comes with the territory. The lady who brought us 85 boxes of books did a lot of work just to get them ready, after all. AND she gave us a week’s warning, so we were ready to handle the quantity. And we are delighted with the results so far. There are some rather unusual art books which I think customers will be clamoring to get. (I had no idea there were so many painters who specialized in cowboys on the open range.)

It’s just that sometimes, SOMETIMES, we sit back and wonder at the thought processes of the generous souls who bring us gifts. Once upon a time, as I am sure I have whined before, some people called about dropping off six boxes of books on a Sunday, when the Newberry is closed. The weather forecast was good, so we asked that they leave the books on our loading dock.

Come Monday morning, no books awaited us. This is not so very unusual. Sometimes the best laid plans go agley, as the poet said, and people can’t drop off books when they meant to. We did not hold this against these people.

Until later in the morning, when one of the Newberry’s backstage crew came and asked me if I knew there were boxes of books on the fire escape. In those days, several renovations ago, there was a staircase on the back of the building, so that people attending a party in Ruggles Hall would have someplace to flee in an emergency. We still have such a staircase, but nowadays it is indoors: the old one was tacked onto the back of the building. And our donors, spotting this door at the top of a flight of stairs, assumed that was our loading dock. They had carried their boxes up one whole story…well, we did get the books, after all.

Have I told you (recently) about the man who called to say he was bringing us a hundred bags of books? We cleared as much space as we could for these and he showed up at the time appointed with a hundred bags of books, which we carried up into the Receiving Room two to four bags at a time, a matter of some thirty or forty trips from the car, up the ramp, and into our work area.

They did not take up as much room as we had expected. He had used bread bags, saved through years of making sandwiches on Wonder, Colonial, Beefsteak Rye, and other classic complements to modern cuisine. This is NOT the way the pros pack books. (He had apparently put thought into it, too, because as we took out the books—a bread bag will hold two hardcover books—we found he had included one moldy book and one clean book in each package.

People have mailed us books. People have brought us thousands of books by stacking them in plastic garbage cans. People have dropped off books wrapped like gifts in offwhite acide-free paper. People have gone off to their local big box store and bought a hundred shopping bags just for packing books. People have hand-delivered single books. People have used boxes their television sets came in, while other people have sorted their boxes by subject into shoeboxes. (We kind of like shoeboxes: perfect for displaying postcards at the Collector’s table.)

Nowadays, of course, we have that missile just inside the glass doors. So sometimes we don’t get to see what you used to bring your books over, because you unload into the missile and take your shoeboxes home with you. (You don’t HAVE to do this; a few of us still find it easier to handle books in boxes or bags. And it keeps ‘em together, so we know which donor gave us the collection of books on Japanese erotic sculpture.)

But we can still be impressed. Last week, someone dropped by and left us numerous bundles of books tied up in twine, a very Old School approach. This would have raised no eyebrows, except that these filled up our missile. So the NEXT people to come by piled THEIR books on top of the missile, to a height of about three feet. It must have been a delicate balancing job, and I must say we all admired the result.

AND you took your breadbags home with you instead of tossing them next to the missile. We have added you to our list of fine donors.

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