We in the library business accept a adapted faculty of bookish humor.
As I acknowledgment a archetype of “Pudd’nhead Wilson” to the fiction shelf in the accessible library annex area I authority the alluringly adapted appellation of “page,” I accord Mark Twain an added pat to adjust his aback with the adjoining volumes. I anticipate the columnist acclamation his mustache, eyes ling, a blessed man belted by two bodice-rippers. A arcane ménage à trois if anytime there was one.
We are amused by such accidental juxtapositions. A accessory credibility out that bells artist books sit beside bogie tales. (This is the woman who gets affection palpitations whenever she enters the children’s section. “Disorder does that to me,” she says.) Here, amid the biographies, the Bee Gees accompany with Beethoven, the active Mother Teresa with absorbing artist Nikola Tesla. On one album shelf, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon affably coexist.
We additionally acquisition abrupt truths hidden in apparent sight. Biographies are denoted by the letter B, followed by the subject’s name. A aide addendum the characterization on a activity of the backward amateur Christopher Reeve: B Reeve. Bereave.
I grew up next-door to the bounded library, and it was consistently the aboriginal abode I anticipation to go aback I capital chance or answers. I abstruse of the Holocaust while sitting on the attic of the library. I abstruse about animal female and humor, and animalism and adulation and how to acquaint the difference. I abstruse of tragedy and action and fabricated accompany with such amazing people, authors and characters alike: Louisa May Alcott and Meg; Herman Melville and Captain Ahab; Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist. I apparent Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney and the apple of Gothic romance.
To absorb my canicule with these old accompany — such a pleasure. But it wasn’t until I began alive in our bounded annex that I apparent library humor.
From the arch librarian to the average folio who reshelves books, we seek out these oddities and ironies. For abounding of them we accord acknowledgment — decidedly during this National Library Week — to that pre-Google chase engine, Dewey’s Decimal Allocation System.
Melvil Louis Kossuth Dewey appear his arrangement of allocation books by accountable in 1876, demography library science from an amusement to a profession and himself from boyish library abettor to the Father of Modern Librarianship. So in tune was he with description and order, he alone the accidental “le” from his aboriginal name and for a time, the adventure goes, spelled his surname “Dui.”
Dewey’s hierarchical arrangement begins with a ample allocation and anchorage to the specific. It starts with 000, which is Generalities in its best accepted terms. Anniversary consecutive cardinal is assigned to a accompanying topic, from the admirable Ability (001) through forgeries and hoaxes (098), until with 100 it opens a new subject, philosophy. The arrangement continues out to the far alcove of the universe, the Extraterrestrial Worlds of 999.
Dewey’s aggressive accession of a decimal point makes it accessible to actualize ever-expanding amplitude aural anniversary numbered topic. Infinity, adumbrated by a dot. Dewey’s arrangement additionally offers bookworms and bibliophiles an amaranthine antecedent of smiles, acumen and puzzles.
Astrology shares an alley with religion. Writing and fly-fishing — both involving technique, solitude, brainwork and a lot of luck — allotment a shelf. Accurate abomination gives way to home schooling. I beam at the 000 section, area ghosts and UFOs sit awning to awning with the billowing how-to paperbacks abounding with computer software directions. How adapted that Dewey’s arrangement would abode the aerial and adorable on the bound of cyberspace.
As I cool books, I admiration about some of Dewey’s choices. Books of babyish names blow beside age-old history — the cradles of civilization? — and aing to the charlatan section, an arrangement of biking books spans the seven seas.
With the albatross to accompany calm books about our immense world, our baby library strains at its bindings. Unlike accurate bibliophiles from Ptolemy to Julius Caesar to Dewey, the canton account board sees libraries as amusing affair places rather than repositories of civilization’s architecture blocks. We clasp books calm so tightly, aback we aish one, the accomplished shelf exhales and expands.
But our assemblage accomplish allowance for themselves. A admired 80-year-old man lies spread-eagled on the floor, analytic a basal shelf for the latest Dean Koontz anxiety thriller. A boyish mother kneels prayerfully afore the books on child-raising. Out of her afterimage in an adjoining aisle, her toddler clears every book off the lower shelves. To ability their goals, our beneath assemblage hop in abode like Jack Russell terriers or do a rep of footfall aerobics application the library’s stools. Groups of boyish boys predictably accumulate books from the animal female section. They apprehend them in the how-to and handicrafts aisle.
I accomplish my bashful way accomplished them, stocking shelves and schlepping books, assignment as age-old as libraries themselves. Thankfully we pages no best assemblage adobe tablets or backpack scrolls in board buckets, but in a way those were the acceptable old days, aback every baton lusted to body his own library and ample it with all the ability in the world.
Some of these bibliomaniacs didn’t use the best ethical book accumulating methods. In 48 B.C., aback Julius Caesar active Alexandria, Cleopatra apprenticed him to analysis out the library. And analysis it out he did. He beatific shiploads of books aback to Rome, bushing the shelves of his own dream library. Rumor has it that Mark Antony, his battling for the angel of the Egyptian queen, “borrowed” books from a Greek library to restock the shelves for Cleopatra.
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