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A Sad State of Affairs

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Here comes what passes, for me, as a rant …

Several weeks ago I did what I thought was a good deed — I packaged up extra copies of several of our Library of American Comics volumes and brought them to the two Public Libraries in my immediate vicinity. In each case I walked in, politely introduced myself, gave a twenty or thirty second elevator speech about LOAC and what we do, and told them I wanted to donate some of our recent releases. In each case, the reaction was — shall we be kind and say? — underwhelming.

At the first Public Library the person at the desk looked at the books, up at me, then back at the books, and had she been sucking on a sour persimmon she might have looked slightly less pleased than she did at that moment. She grudgingly pulled them a bit closer to her side of the desk, mumbled something might have been a “Thank you,” then turned away from me without another word. At the second Public Library the reception was, if anything, even chillier. “We may not want these books,” the scarecrow behind the desk said to me. “we’ll have to review them, and if it turns out we don’t want them, is it all right if we put them into our next Library Book Sale?”

So, let’s recap: I’m coming to these establishments not as a raging egomaniac, and I’m not shoving old, well-thumbed, dog-eared books their way — I’m being polite. I’m coming to them with a smile on my face, and I’m presenting each of them with over two hundred fifty dollars worth of brand-spanking-new, shiny, hot-off-the-press volumes. At a point in history when we’re supposedly clamoring for all-ages material, here comes a batch of titles that fill that bill, produced in part by a local professional, and all it generates is sneers.

This experience makes me now publicly ask a question that’s been building for awhile now: When did the persons who make their living working with books start hating books? Yes, I’m talking to you, librarians, and to you, bookstore employees. What the haitch-ee-double-toothpicks? How can we expect kids to foster a love for books if you’re showing them this snot-nosed attitude whenever they visit your establishments? How can we keep adults reading if you interact with them in ways that indicate you’d rather be sucking down bon-bons on the couch while CSI reruns flicker across your TV screen, or sneaking off to the break room to play some brain-dead game on your so-called smartphone? I’m not asking you to act like Pollyanna to every belligerent customer who accosts you. I am suggesting you could act professionally, especially when dealing with another professional who is part of the overall profession that allows you to cash your paycheck on a regular basis.

It would be wrong for me to tar every librarian and bookseller with the same brush — I’m sure there are many knowledgeable, upbeat, helpful, enthusiastic librarians and booksellers in communities all over the country. If you are one of them, pat yourself on the back, because you are doing Good Work and you are seemingly part of an ever-shrinking tribe. I applaud you, and I wish you lived and worked in my community. Since you do not, you can bet your sweet bippy I’ve donated my last book to either of my local Public Libraries. I’ll contact the local hospitals, schools, and even retirement homes, working toward a simple goal: to find one or more places that will accept my occasional donated books with a smile and a “Thanks” that sounds sincere.

Is that really too much to ask …?

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Written by cnwl1

May 16, 2014 at 2:31 am

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