Tuesday, October 17, 2006

'As Rapidly As Books Worth While Are Published'

Here's how it went in 1911, according to the March 23, 1911, New Mexican:
headline: new books on shelves...
"The liberal patronage of the public of the new feature of the Public Library , the giving out of the latest works of fiction on the payment of a 'nickel', has brought sufficient revenue the first month to enable the library to add today five of the latest works of fiction that are attracting wide attention. The plan is, that when a book has been taken out a sufficiently number of time to pay for it, then it is placed on the 'free' shelf, but until then, it can be taken out only for one week upon the payment of five cents. This enables patrons to keep up with fiction as it is published, upon payment of the small sum, and incidentally permits the library to add to its books as rapidly as books worth while are published instead of waiting a year to replenish the book shelves." (emphasis added)

Today of course we don't charge for anything, and we order the newest titles weeks in advance of publication so that they can be on hand as soon as they come out. We order materials all year round, about 20,000 titles a year, whereas this clipping implies that in 1911 the library had been 'waiting a year to replenish the shelves.' What has not changed is the relationship between the generosity of our users and our ability to acquire the newest of the new even to this day; because it is the Friends of the Library's booksales, selling the books you donate, that underwrite that early-ordering-of-bestsellers account.

So what were the five books? Alas, ninety-five years later they are all forgotten. Marguerite Andoux, Marie Claire; Cora Harris, Eve's Second Husband; Jesse Lynch Williams, The Married Life of the Frederic Carrols; Pierre de Coulevain, On the Branch; and lastly, Jeffery Farnol, The Broad Highway, which the article says 'critics have pronounced the best story in the English language in 10 years.' It was nevertheless forgotten, but we actually have another book by Jeffery Farnol, The King Liveth, published in 1944.

No comments: