Left Behind: What They Read

Andrew D. Scrimgeour, dean of libraries at Drew University, writes in the NYT Book Review about inventorying and removing the libraries of deceased scholars, in Handled With Care.
One of the little-known roles of the academic librarian is bereavement counseling: assisting families with the disposition of books when the deceased have not specified a plan for them. Most relatives know these books were the lifeblood of their owners and so of intellectual value if not great monetary worth. But they remain clueless about how to handle them responsibly. Some call used-book shops. Some call the Salvation Army. Others call a university library.
He sees it as his duty to "perform last rites".  His description of how he approaches and handles these orphaned libraries reveals the soul of a true book lover.

What Scrimgeour does not say, and I respect him for keeping our secret, is that very few of these books will be saved: either by being cataloged for his school library or by being sold to book collectors.  Most will be trashed.

By virtue of our reputation as guardians of the printed word, we must do what lay persons, God bless them, cannot bring themselves to do.  With a practiced eye, we judge books to be worthless and destroy them.

We went to Mass on New Year's Eve, the Vigil of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, aka the Feast of the Circumcision.

R. slept very late this morning, her last chance.  We both go back to work Wednesday, she to the grueling run-up to the legislative session in March.

R. worked remotely on some legislative bills while I washed a couple of loads of laundry and made leek and potato soup.

I had a ham & cheese sandwich for lunch.  R. made herself a cheeseburger.

We went to Walgreen's to get cash for the housemaid, who is coming tomorrow, and to get some ointment for R.'s skin rash.

R. took Claudius out, and a little while later I heard her calling me.  Claudius had chased another cat across the neighbors' yard.  We found him and put him inside.  Claudius was so proud of his triumph!  He reclined on the living-room rug and groomed himself.

We took a walk around the neighborhood.  We had thought to have a big New Year's Day supper; pork chops, sweet potatoes and kale; but after our late lunch we decided to have the soup with bread.

We watched Rick Steves touring little countries of Europe,  Vatican City, Monaco, etc., and then the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's New Year's concert, hosted by Julie Andrews.  The concert ended at 9:30, and I left for my hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at our church's chapel at 10.


Steerforth said...

I pulp at least 85% of the books I receive. Someone once suggested that I donate them to a charity shop, unaware that this is where they had come from. The hard truth is that in most cases, the supply exceeds the demand. Everyone loves Dickens, but not enough of them love him enough to actually read the millions of copies in existence. It feels wrong throwing a nice clean hardback of 'Bleak House' into a bin.

Brett said...

Yes, it does feel wrong. I think that I should save it until the library needs a replacement copy of Bleak House. And the piles grow around my desk until I make myself let go of them.

And those are the books that still have readers. Then there are the manuals for forgotten software, the 30-year-old encyclopedias, the Reader's Digest condensed books, the spiral-bound Junior League cookbooks, old diet books and books by forgotten motivational speakers.

People have no idea of the sheer volume of worthless printed matter that is fit only to be discarded.