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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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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