***Today’s Throwback post was originally published January 7, 2010***
I will never forget my shock. There I sat, an innocent, in the admissions office at my college. All around me were the usual people that made up my day–the admissions counselors, the office manager, the director and associate director. We were minding our own business, recruiting future students for St. John’s College, a.k.a. the Great Books School. When out of nowhere, it happened. The new data manager (not an alum, let it be noted, unlike most of the employees) showed her true colors. “Tim and I are spring cleaning, and I threw out three boxes of books.”
Gasp! The horror . . . The sacrilege . . . Oh, let it not be so, let not this blasphemer be sitting two feet away from me . . .
We just stared at her in shock until she started laughing at the matching expressions on the faces of the four of us in the room. “What?” she finally asked.
I wrapped my tongue around it first. “You threw away books? And you dare to admit it here?”
Now, it’s no secret that we Johnnies are book-lovers. We make a four-year career out of collecting obscure literature, reading it, and discussing it in class. It’s what we do. In a lot of ways, it’s who we are. We are Book Lovers. We unite to sing the praises of all things bound in card stock with hotmelt and trimmed to size.
But there are those in the world who oppose our Creed. There are those who value Space and Organization above the wonder of typeset ideas. Some compromise by donating their unneeded books to good homes or libraries, which is an understandable decision. But some . . . some toss them carelessly to the side. As if they are . . . nothing! (Sob, gasp!)
Well, I am here as a safe-house. Just last night my husband erected four new four-foot shelves to hold the overflow. Now, most of these books that I so carefully placed in alphabetic order last night will not be with me forever. I am but a steward of them, seeing to their well-being until I find a good home for them, readers to devour their pages and write reviews for me. But oh, how I long to adopt them all!
In my quest to provide an island of safety for books of all kinds, I have developed several identities. I will answer to The Reviewer. The Librarian. The Bookworm. My keen ears can hear the phrase, “I need a new book to read” from a mile away, and my deft fingers will quickly pluck a selection from my shelves and deliver it to the friend or family member in need. It is not always an easy calling, but it is one I cannot ignore.
And we are training up another generation to take over our operations even now. As my itchy fingers dove into the box of books-awaiting-shelves the moment plywood touched brackets, my son and daughter were there beside me. Believing, hoping. And asking, “Mommy, do we get to keep all these books, or do we give them away?”
I caressed the spine of a novel just begging to be read. “These, sweetie, we’ll have to give away.”
A definite pout entered her tone. “But why, Mommy? Why can’t we keep them all?”
A question to bring tears to this Bookworm’s eyes. “Because, sweetie, other people need to read too. But don’t you worry. Though we send these out, new books will come in to take their places.”
I felt a little hand press against my leg. “I’ll help you Mommy. I’ll help you divide them. You just hand the non-fishing to me.” And she picked up a book with a cover that declared it non-fiction and put it in the pile for the lower shelf.
My chest swelled with pride. They’ll learn . . . and they’ll carry on. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.
We are Book Lovers.