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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Lonely Books

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 27, 2008

They are my lonely books.


They are books that have lost their purpose in a public library collection, and now reside on the shelves in my office.


Many came through the library doors as donations, not quite the right choice for the circulating collection, but not ready for the paper-recycling bin.


It is likely that only the "older generation" of librarians would find a home for these lonely books, as we have more library memories than our younger colleagues.


One title is the set of "Great Books of the Western World," published by Britannica in the 1960s as all of the great literature in society.


They are attractive on the shelf, but are of limited usage in today's world.


The next shelf is occupied by the 20 vol. set of "Messages and papers of the Presidents," published in 1897 by the 52nd Congress.


Again, attractive on the shelf but rarely used, and they can be found in virtually every public library.


Then there are the "historic-looking" books that look like they are worth a lot of money --- but aren't.


Abbott's 1875 "History of the State of Ohio" has a crumbling leather cover and a distinctive spine.


Ridpath's "Cyclopedia of Universal History" is a three-volume set published in 1885 by subscription.  Unfortunately, it was poorly housed over the years and is falling apart, but looks impressive just from the spine side.


County histories occupy another shelf of my lonely bookshelf.


We have all of the titles in our public collection, but these copies all have a history of their own.


Six copies of Doyle's 1910 "20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County" came from various sources.


A Michigan Library had one donated, and kindly sent it to us.  An individual who had the binding restored donated another copy.


One is in the original binding as it appeared in 1910, while yet another had been repaired with duct tape, which I carefully removed to reveal the original.


This shelf was useful when a North Carolina man called trying to sell us a copy of Doyle's history for $ 1,000 until I told him I already had six on my shelf, and they have been reprinted so their value is much smaller than his price.


Then there are the odd books.  A 1939 football book, with its brown fragile pages, was due back to the library Oct. 15, 1956, and returned in 2007 in the book drop.


"Under the Greenwood Tree" by Thomas Hardy is signed by Beatrice M. Kelly, an early librarian of our library.


"How Green was my Valley" by Richard Llewellyn is signed by David Griffith, librarian from 1952-1964.


"Dove" by Robin Lee Graham was the first book for which I wrote a book review when I was 18 years old.


Three "McGuffey Readers" have been donated over the years, but are in such poor condition that they are resting on my shelf.


I will wrap up this tour of my lonely bookshelf with mention of 3 medical books from 1920 that probably belong in a medical museum.


None of these titles are archival materials, and none are valuable.  They are living their days on the lonely books shelf.


People expect old books in a librarian's office in front of the chairs upholstered with classic books material.


What will the next generation of librarian have in their office?