Printed Page Bookshop
March 2021

These pioneering librarians were ones for the books 
"Libraries are the enemies of books," a bookseller told me when I was starting to learn about the used book trade.  I could see what he meant.  Libraries put taped labels on books, or write impossible-to-remove Dewey Decimal System catalog numbers on the books' spines.  They tattoo books with rubber stamps and sometimes remove copyright pages.  And in the used book world, two of the most frightening words are "ex-lib," meaning "it used to be a library book."  To the used and antiquarian booksellers, books are objects judged in large part on their condition.  To the librarian, books are objects judged by their utility.  
But librarians deserve our support and respect, and I've developed more of both since reading Susan Orlean's "The Library Book,"  a lively history of the Los Angeles Library centered around an arsonist's catastrophic act in 1986.
What appealed to me most about the book was not so much the history of the library, but rather the history of its librarians.  The first female librarian in the U.S. (and the second librarian in LA) was Mary Foy (above right), hired at 18 to be the citiy librarian.  "While it is surprising that such a young person would have been considered...the bigger surprise was that this young woman was a woman, since in 1880 the library was an organization run by, and still catering to men," Orlean wrote.  Women weren't even allowed to have their own library cards, although librarian was one of the few career paths women of that day could pursue.  
Foy was stern and efficient.  Even though the library didn't yet have a catalog, she could find anything on the shelves quickly.  She pursued overdue fines with a vengeance, depositing them in a leather purse she wore slung across here chest.  Among her responsibilities was refereeing chess and checker games played in the reading room.  Foy probably could have continued to be the city librarian for years, Orlean wrote, but the library board voted to remove her when it concluded that her father was wealthy enough that he now could afford to take care of her.
In 1900, another woman, Mary Jones (above left) became the first city librarian to have graduated from a library school.  She was serious, efficient, and innovative in her own quiet way.  She began her term by dropping the age limit for children, allowing ten-year-olds to come in.  She recruited African-American librarians for library branches in neighborhoods with large Black populations and encouraged them to built book collections about "the Negro experience."  The library thrived, doubling its circulation in just four years.  This was at a time when libraries were either private or charged membership fees, a situation that changed with the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, who ended up building 1,700 libraries.  
As for Ms. Jones, she, too, was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a man.  The rumor was that she had been propositioned by the head of the library board, but she had turned him down. 
While we commonly think of librarians as the ones in the public libraries, there are all sorts of specialized librarians.  Most universities have special collections librarians who oversee highly directed book collections that the university has built or been given or both.  Companies have librarians who can research virtually any aspect of an organization's interests.  And public librarians have evolved as well, as have public libraries, which have new challenges these days including a large homeless clientele and routine disputes with persons who want to ban this book or that one.  But, still, do they really have to use those stamps? 
-Dan Danbom
Source:  The Library Book by Susan Orlean. 


This Month's Puzzler


On March 18, 1932, this man was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. Growing up, he gravitated toward drawing as well as writing, but decided to major in English when he won a full scholarship to Harvard. After graduating in 1954, he spent a year studying graphic arts at Oxford University, as he onsidered a career as a cartoonist. Returning to New York, he landed a job at "The New Yorker" magazine, where he contributed articles, ditorials, criticism, and poetry. After publishing two books of poetry and essays in 1958 and 1959, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which he turned into "Rabbit, Run," a book that established him as a major riting talent. Over the next four decades, he became one of America's most acclaimed writers, winning two Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other awards. In "Hugging the Shore," a 1983 collection of essays and critical reviews, he wrote:

"Adversity in immunological doses has its uses; more than that crushes."

Who was this man?
A blogger paid us a visit so you can visit us virtually
Holli Rosen, who blogs about a variety of subjects that pique her imagination, recently paid us a visit (with her videographer sidekick), and came up with this story and an accompanying visual tour of Printed Page.  We thought you might want to see it HERE.

Bibliophiles have two fun competitions to enter this month 
March 31 is the deadline for young collectors to enter the Taylor Kirkpatrick Prize competition.  It's a chance for you to win the $1000 prize bearing his name.  The rules and guidelines are surprisingly simple:  You have to be a Colorado resident age 30 or younger, the materials have to be your own, the collection should reflect a clearly defined theme or interest, the collection can extend beyond books to, for example, maps and prints, and the collection doesn't have to consist of rare books.  You can find complete information and an entry form HERE.
Our friend and Puzzler master Dr. Mardy Grothe has a fun competiton, too.  He's inviting you to submit a Great Opening Line from an imaginary work of fiction.  He offers a couple of samples he wrote:
"Like most recreational drug users, I had an off-again, on-again relationship with my dealer."
"You never really know a man until you've sued him," thought Amanda Neville, as the judge gaveled the proceedings to a close.
Ten winners will get bragging rights, along with ten honorable mentions.  Deadline for entries is March 25.  Send entries to drmardy@drmardy.com and put GOL/PPB in the subject line.

Puzzler answer

John Updike. (If you like our Puzzler, find more on our Facebook page)
Thanks to Dr. Mardy Grothe for the use of his puzzler.  Visit him at drmardy.com.

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