A library is a depository for books. That is common knowledge. Any child could tell you as much. But as it happens, libraries also receive an untold number of items that have nothing at all to do with literature. Case in point out latest donation. It’s big. It’s red. It features an outdated form of technology currently enjoying a revival amongst hipsters and college students. What is it?
If you guessed, “A record player that only plays 45s” you are correct!
Now don’t get too excited. First off, we’ve already found a lovely home for it, so no. You cannot have it. Second, the needle is broken, so even though it came with a floppity little record inside, we can’t play it. Third, it has no speakers. But while it may not be the most practical gift we’ve ever gotten, it certainly is one of the prettiest.
Here at the library we have a new addition and you can see it anytime you like. Just drive down Church Street and pull into the alleyway just after Orrington. On your left, on the East side of the library, you’ll see a big green bin. It kind of looks like a drop box for library books and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as such, were it not for the large sign plastered at the top that reads, “STOP – NO LIBRARY RETURNS”.
No library returns? Outside of a library? Yet down below it clearly says “drop books here”. What kind of bin is this anyway?
Introducing the Better World Books bin for book donations. As some of you may have noticed, the library is no longer accepting donations these days. We have no annual book sale any longer, but that doesn’t mean folks in town don’t want to give us their books. After all, they could be worth something. The Better World Books bin alleviates this problem. You see, when we accepted physical donations the people of Evanston were generous. VERY generous. TOO generous. It took constant work by library volunteers and staff to perform the sorting work needed (someone recently called it “triage” and I don’t think the term is out of place). The Better World Books bin does the sorting for us. And part of every sale of the books donated goes to our library.
So the next time you wonder what to do with that book that’s been gathering dust on your shelf for too long, stop on by the library and look for the big green bin. Just don’t drop in your library books!
When I walk in the door Monday morning I am greeted by a flood of donations that have appeared, mysteriously, in my absence. They are in piles in the bins, overflowing the sides. Two good-natured volunteers are also usually there, panning for gold, as it were. They’ll fill up a nice little cart and I’ll go through it to see if any of the items can replace our grubby copies on the shelf. This is a good way to go about things, and once in a while you get a real treasure. Take a look at this:
Doesn’t look like much, does it? When I saw it on the cart I knew exactly what it was, though. Before a book is published for posterity the publisher will create review copies. These are sent to potential blurbers (famous writers who will offer complimentary quotes) and review journals as well. A galley is never to be sold and is actually not particularly prized by rare book dealers, which I’ve always found a bit funny considering their rarity.
I took this one and then opened it up. That’s when I saw this tucked inside:
June 11, 2003
Thank you for making the time read my book. I know you must be very busy now with the lovely success of your book; congratulations. I don’t know if you remember me. I was a student in one of your creative writing classes, around 1983 or so. Anyway, thanks for embarking on this. If you can’t blurb it, that’s okay – but I would love it if you feel you can.
No word on whether or not Jim ever blurbed the book or not. Nor are there any clues as to who “Jim” was in the first place. He must have been local, or the book wouldn’t have arrived in our bin. There are no markings in the book itself.
So there’s your mystery, readers! Find Jim! In the meantime, I think I’m going to start a collection of fun ephemera here at the library. This little book is a piece of history, whether it wants to be or not.