Sunday, June 13, 2010

Peculiar donated books


Behold! A new look for the blog. It was time.

Over the last year, we've received a steady stream of book donations from a patron. She had hoped to open a used-book shop with her mom but circumstances prevented it; now she's bringing those books to us, box by box. We open each one with anticipation. What wonders are awaiting us?

Sometimes there are no wonders, just old books that may have been valuable at one time but are no longer sought after. Author popularity comes and goes. Keep an eye on current culture - what book is the basis of a newly-released film? That book, one that may have been ignored for years, will suddenly be the book people want to read, along with everything else written by that author. The author's 'value' rises in the used-book world.

The same is true about subjects. In 2008, we couldn't keep a knitting book on the shelf. One would come in and go right back out. That tapered off a little in 2009, giving way to the newer hot topic, jewelry-making. And I'm reminded of the Poker craze of 2003 - it seemed that everyone wanted to learn poker strategies, inspired by the opportunity to play poker online (with websites trumpeting win thousands!) Poker books just sit there, now.

Back to the donated books. As I said, some of them had been worth a lot of money but nobody is interested in them now unless they collect the specific author or subject. The economy has stifled used-book prices, too. However, while they may not command a 'collectible' price, a lot of the books have a major coolness factor.

Some favorites:

Goat Gland Transplantation, worth about .25 as a book but priceless as a Cool Title. There was a time in the early 1900s when medicine was, well, weird. There was a lot of experimentation going on. This was one of the premier books on the subject.

Whistling as an Art (1925) - I had no idea that whistling has its own tablature.

Cutie, A Warm Mamma (1924) - Ok, this one is simply wonderful. Harold is an upright young man, Cutie is a woman of the night. The whole story concerns Harold's fall from uprightness. The best part of the book is the Epic Metaphor Awfulness. We suspect the authors did it on purpose. (A previous book by these two guys involved a character named Lesbia Lefkowitz.)

Father And Son (1946) - A government pamphlet covering what a father must teach his son about sex. The pamphlet is pretty humorous reading from a 2010 point of view, but it's also a good historic look at attitudes concerning personal health, marriage, and the family.

We have a cabinet in the branch that we're using to display some of the donated books, most of them children's books ca. 1880-1940. Patrons occasionally ask about them, wondering where they came from and whether any are for sale. One patron attempted a con, saying she had permission to look at the books and buy some. She was unsuccessful, in the end, but had convinced staff to open the cabinet and let her look. She talked about how wonderful it was to get a good deal. Ha! Someone alerted me and that was the end of that.

Donated books. One of the many things I love about working at the library.

Overheard on Twitter: Biggest lie in history: I have read and agree to the terms of use.

Next time: Tell Me A Joke. Stay tuned.

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