When counting through the people who made the 2018 Book Fair a success—the volunteers, the food donors who sent sustenance to feed the volunteers, the customers who provided sustenance to feed the Newberry—one might tend to overlook a group which sometimes passes unnoticed. I mean the donors.
No, not the donors I’ve been talking about for the past twelve months: the ones who brought us Peruvian blowguns and collections of 1950s African political material and boxes of comic books. I hope I do not let THOSE donors go unnoticed. I mean the people who really gave an extra excitement to the Book Fair: the donors who kept dropping off books all through July and into August.
It is one of our unwritten rules that we will not turn you away if you show up with books in July or August, even if you ARE getting in the way when we’re trying to organize the OTHER 140,000 books. We do not pull out the Zappo ray gun even when you stack books in front of a door that cannot be opened with your half ton of books sitting there or leaving them just where the contractors need to pull in heavy pipes. We take generosity as it comes. (Even if it comes at a bad time in a bad place and creates extra chaos.)
This is because we have no way of knowing whether that box that’s blocking the door AND the sidewalk will have the book signed by a Supreme Court Justice. (His autograph starts at about $400, I find: perhaps because he died so recently. It’ll be interesting to find out, next July, whether the price has gone up or down.) MAYBE that broken garbage bag on the staircase is filled with books about The Beatles. (Large picture books, most of them, and just exactly what some customer will be looking for in 2019.)
Even now, when we’re not actually setting up a Book Fair, but trying to recover from one, AND helping set up books in the new Bookshop (opening Tuesday) and trying to shift things out of the way of the contractors (who have by and large finished work on the Bookshop and Welcome Center—also opening Tuesday—and are now getting the new exhibit galleries ready for the big Columbian Exposition Exhibition (or is that Exhibition Exposition?), and at one and the same time trying to compose our entry for longest single sentence in a blog, we continue to smile upon people who drop off books for our amazement and delectation.
How could we have turned you away, even before we knew you were dropping off that Christmas-themed World War II home recipe book on how to be festive with a ration book (skinniest Santa Claus I’ve seen in a while)? Why WOULD we turn you away, suspecting you might bring us not one but TWO bags of totally unused cupcake papers? (A few years ago, someone gave us USED cupcake wrappers. Not at all the same thing: once the cupcake is gone, the experience is over, salmon sangria.) You have brought us things to delight, amaze, and puzzle customers next July. (WHY was the plastic velociraptor in the plastic bag with the sheet music for Richard Strauss’s Tyl Eulenspiegel? The world may never know.)
So it is not with any sense of ire or disappointment that I am shaking my finger and asking you to remember that, unless it’s urgent, we don’t want donations until after Labor Day. The contractors are doing a lot of work in that vestibule where you’ve donated books all year, and though they can deal with you, you have only yourself to blame if you brush against the wet paint. Yes, if you MUST clean out the apartment before you move to Ottawa, we understand and we’ll take the books (tapes, records, discs, velociraptors, et al…if Al goes out and gets his own lunch).
We just wanted you to know why our teeth may be gritted behind our grateful smile. (Velociraptors and Richard Strauss seem a good pair, really…we just wondered if you already made that YouTuibe video or whether there’s still room for us to do it.)