Monday, April 22, 2013

W16: The Book Collection

Once again a brown non-descript book came out of the Biblio-Mat. Luckily, this week it was much smaller and much more entertaining.

But unsatisfying.

I turned the book over and the spine read The Book Collection. Below that were hand written numbers ‘025.2’ above ‘Sha’. My biblio-senses were tingling. I opened it up and I was right. This was a book on book collecting. Specifically, book collecting for libraries. Written by Kenneth R. Shaffer in 1962, the foreword emphasizes not only the importance of reading but also the importance of keeping a well-stocked public library. However, at the bottom of the foreword was a stamp denoting that it was an ex-library book... The irony was delicious.

I imagine it was a town filled with people in hockey masks.
When I read the foreword my first notion was that this would be a book on collecting books. Seeing how I now have a respectable collection of texts from The Monkey’s Paw, this interested me. However, upon delving deeper it turns out that The Book Collection wasn’t as much about collecting books as it was about the trouble of curating a public library.

Indeed, the book was filled with twenty five case studies on what one would assume are common occurrences in the librarian world circa 1962. Outside of people shoving books onto the shelves in misplaced order, I had never considered what problems librarians go through but after reading this book, new found appreciation was gleaned. 

99 problems and a tome was one.
The first case study hooked me off the bat. Following a curator named Sanford Ames, it presented an interesting story of publishing rights. Ames, while working for a university, had created a microfilm of an unpublished work for reference with the blessing of the author’s descendant. However, when the descendant passed away and his estate was purchased, legal action was brought to Ames by the purchaser of the book for possessing a copy of this unpublished work, claiming that it was no longer an unpublished manuscript if any form of the text exists outside of the book. The chapter ends with a question of what Ames was to do. Growing up on Encyclopedia Brown, I quickly formatted a solution and turned to the back of the book.

Nothing.

More Nate the Great than Encyclopedia Brown.
Unlike a university calculus textbook, this book does not present solutions to the questions it asks. Not even the odd number questions. This continued for twenty three more case studies. Thankfully, the last case study had not one but two solutions provided to the dilemma of parents objecting to the books in the young adult section of the library. As a fan of anecdotes and moral dilemmas, I enjoyed the questions posed in the situations of the different libraries, but not knowing the possible answers dampened the experience just a tad bit.

Book Rating: 8/10 (the lack of resolution really hurts)

Random quote: “Remembering the importance of good public relations at this particular time in this particular institution, how would you suggest that the director of the library handle the matter otherwise?” (I don’t know, how? How??)

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