The library that doesn’t buy single copies of anything now buys quite a few single copies

Back when I toured the Front St. processing plant, I was assured the library never buys single copies of anything. I knew that was false at the time and it has certainly remained so.

The new variation of this model involves buying single copies of the books I suggest via blue forms. They’re willing to do that even when books on similar topics have 15 copies. (That’s what makes me think I’m being singled out. There’s obviously demand for the topic, and the books aren’t interchangeable.)

MLSs, mistresses of the sidelong glance and conspicuous throat-clearing, are adept at passive-aggressiveness. So yes, they’ll take my suggested titles seriously and buy nearly all of them. One copy each, in many cases, or just two. There’s really no way for these items to circulate, since you have to walk by the items in their home branches (typically TRL) to even know they exist. (And actually, not “walk by” them – scan the shelves and notice the book just by its spine.) Lose those and you’re left with nothing.

“Lose” here can mean all sorts of things. The wonderful volume The Lost Album: A Visual History of 1950s Britain contains cards and tickets embedded in its cover and includes life-sized replicas of instruction manuals and wartime ration coupons.

Double-page spread showing four-inch-high kraft ration book bound inside

I didn’t even know the library bought this book until I bumped into it on the new-release shelf on second-floor Reference. I had my guy check: Yes, it’s the sole copy. So I went through the whole thing, with delight, and handed it in at the front desk.

Where is it now? Who the hell knows? Want to put a hold on it? You can’t.

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