Bright, shiny covers. Tall ones sitting beside short ones. Stout beside skinny. Spines with a variety of fonts and colours and textures that beg you to touch and feel. With outside edges that are soft, clinging together, that untouched feeling of pages as yet unturned and unappreciated.
I work at a library and I’m talking about a shelf of new books. Not exciting for everyone out there, of course, but for those who appreciate the written word (probably you), they are like magnets. From where I sit at my desk, I have the unique privilege of watching and listening to co-workers as they ready those books for their journey to the first library patron. As the books are outfitted with covers and labels, they are held, fondled, browsed, commented on, shared, notes taken.
Our workspace is an open concept, so I can hear the Acquisitions Department first since they are the ones to unpack the new arrivals. While the shipments are weekly occurrences and some arrive without fanfare, there are often unique and special books that appeal, for whatever reason, to one or more individuals on staff. Just like our patrons, we are gardeners, travelers, cooks, parents, grandparents, lovers of best-sellers. Who could possibly remain unmoved by the hype and arrival of each new Harry Potter title? And we all know when someone cracks open books like The Very Quiet Cricket ( Spoiler Alert: silent until the day he meets a very quiet girl cricket).
As the books move along their way through the hands of other staff, the reactions are generally the same, yet specifically different . This is not always a selfish act, as family members and friends are kept in mind as the books are considered. It’s fun to watch as someone discovers a gem that seems perfectly matched to a co-worker’s tastes, and, like a parent on Christmas morning, presents it to him/her with anticipation of validating their find.
As the processing continues, the books sit briefly on the ‘new book shelves’, then the ‘new book cart’, being seen by different people in other work areas. (I enjoy this privilege, and am amused, as I watch staff attempt to pass by, but are unable to resist the urge to look and browse.) Eventually we feel the satisfaction of a book being placed in a box on its way to the borrower fortunate enough to be first in the waiting list.
But my thoughts don’t stop here. What will its first loan be like, I wonder? Will it go to a hammock on a summer’s day? A rug by a warm fire? Will it be shared with a cup of tea, or a forbidden cigarette, or both? Will it rest on a night table, in a knapsack, or with a dust bunny? Perhaps it will travel on a joyful family vacation, or to a hospital room filled with pain and sadness. Might it be read in secret, or shared with a best friend? Will it help, heal, comfort, soothe? Will it bring goose bumps and make hairs stand on end? Will it emote happiness, guilt, hope, elation? Will its contents be disappointing, or life-altering?
Whatever the experience, may we all appreciate the wonder of books, both new and old.
Wendy Trimper, Head of Branch Services