What We Keep Hidden Away
This post begins with a tweet.
When I read Sharon’s message here, I wanted two things simultaneously. First, I wanted that Jack Kent book for myself. In a world where the most Kent you can hope for is The Caterpillar and the Polliwog or Joey Runs Away, I wanted this robin in all his roly-poly glory. Second, Shannon said something key there: “… we still have this one which we keep in a special cabinet to extend its life.”
Lord howdy, I thought I was the only one with that cabinet. Or, in my case, it’s always been a drawer. The drawer of books where you keep the things you can’t stand to weed.
Once upon a time I worked in New York Public Library’s Central Children’s Room at 42nd Street. We were required to weed the collection, an act I hated. Not because I dislike weeding (in principle) but because the collection had been so much larger when it had been at the Donnell Library previously that it felt like a crime to winnow it down even further. Still, you do it, right? You’re a librarian. Weeding’s part of the game. But there was this one circulating book I couldn’t bear to part with. It’s cover was torn. It looked like death warmed over. I had no desire to read it myself, and yet I couldn’t condemn it to a recycled grave.
Mind you, this was before Poppins had her current Renaissance. You can get a paperback of this book easy peasy as of 2018. But at the time it was out-of-print and I was working for a library that would occasionally put Travers’ umbrella (the one with the parrot head – yes, it is real) on display. So maybe it was an odd justification but I felt I had to keep this book in the system. Trouble was, it was too ugly to keep on the shelf. The solution? Well, not a cabinet exactly, but a drawer. Alongside two or three other books in similar situations, I would keep the book tucked away. Then, when the morning holds list / pick list came out, I’d inspect it to see if any of those books were included. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn’t. But by gum, I kept them in stock.
These days I’m a voracious weeder (I’m literally going to a presentation by the women who run Awful Library Books today). Still, I regret nothing. And I suspect that I’m not alone. Shannon’s post proved as much.
So fess up, librarians. Let it out. What do you keep in a drawer or cabinet or closet that you cannot part with?
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