I was a civil employee early in the year 1988. I worked as a humble book-shelver in our city’s public library. It was heaven. I was there the day we closed the doors for three weeks, which is just unheard of. We then, meticulously by hand, one single book at a time, put every item in that library onto the new-fangled barcode system. It was a massive undertaking, custom-made for a detail oriented OCD person like me. It was probably the only time in history that every book was put into its proper place and stayed there. Imagine.
I wish I had had the chance to take home one of the card catalog drawers. Maybe J-K, fiction. They are a piece of history now, which makes me worry terribly about the future of paper books and libraries themselves. And my “murky future” bookstore.
How will I sell you a book that you actually have to turn the pages of?
Before that, I worked at the mall across the street from my high school at Waldenbooks. I took incoming shipments of books out of boxes in the back room and placed them out on the store shelves. No one wanted this boring part of the job, and what was their loss was my heaven. I briefly read the covers and backs as I worked, and sometimes the middles if I could get a 15 minute break.
The funny part was, that if a customer walked in and said, “My daughter is reading a series with a dog, a grapefruit and a ship in it…” I knew right away what series it was and could put my hand on it. If a customer came in with, “My mother is a Nora Roberts fanatic and it’s her birthday but she already has all the Nora Roberts in the whole world….” Then I knew which authors her mother was going to love. Studying to pass your GED? Got it right here. Need to find exactly the right toddler book involving a duck? Yup. If we didn’t have it, I could get it. We did have a computer then. Nothing like today when you tap over to Kindle.com and have instant gratification. But it felt fulfilling all the same.
So far the best book gig, hands down, has been as “Mommy”.
I read to my kids before they were even born. I love reading aloud; I do all the voices, as Jo says in Little Women, and I have had every awesome kid’s book worth reading. Bookcases were my signature furniture decorating style.
My youngest is 13 now, and we moved houses, so almost all of our books were donated between the elementary school, the local library and the library resale shop. Out of an extensive collection, I have reduced my personal library down to about 200 that I cannot bear to part with.
Books were meant to circulate, not sit on a shelf, and we had moved on, literarily, to Dickens, Kipling, Dumas, Twain and the like. It’s not that I can’t borrow them from the library whenever I want to. It’s just comforting to know I can put my hand on one and be instantly in India or Rohan, on a whaling ship or rafting the Mighty Mississippi.
The other day, I went to the library and borrowed a stack of old friends, from Eric Carle to Amelia Bedelia. My older, sophisticated techy kids sat down and had a heyday, reminiscing about all the warm quilty cozy feelings of being three years old, sitting in Grampy’s lap, listening to “Three Bears. One with a light, one with a stick, one with a rope…”