Back to School Shopping

August 21, 2007

In the words of my former retail manager, “I think JCrew does fall best.” Meaning that their clothes in the fall season are better than their clothes in spring or summer.
Evidence– the August 2007 catalog. As is appropriate for Back to School, there’s a whole library/book/reading theme happening–cashmere tees folded in the stacks alongside old bound issues of Pennsylvania Magazine, boots displayed on the h-k drawer of the card catalog, etc.

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So committed to the reading theme, JCrew folks did a photo shoot in an actual library. On page 028 we have two young ladies perched precariously in the alcoves wearing a not-very-flattering combo of the cropped pants and deep v neck sweaters. The butch one is wearing the “men’s tartan patchwork driving cap” and the femme one has her hair in an oh-so authentic co-ed messy bun. She passes a book down from the balcony to her eagerly awaiting tartan clad friend. And there’s a little bit of trivia in the right hand corner, and suddenly its like reading Martha Stewat Living, “WHO KNEW? The library pictured here is one of the world’s oldest, most distinguished independent libraries…Can you guess the name of this beautiful Boston landmark?”

Well I was hoping to flip the catalog upside down, Highlights style, to find the answer, but instead I had to look it up. Why of course! Its the Boston Athenaeum. Any self respecting back to schooler would know.

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Some Considerations for the Home Library

April 12, 2007

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When I first moved into a house with my dear friend Karen Longshore, she insisted upon organizing our bookshelves by cuteness. The cute books go on the shelves in the living room, while the uglies are cloistered in my bedroom.

Old Girl Scout Handbook, Intermediate Program: CUTE.

Pat Calfia’s neon orange and black Public Sex : UGS.

1965 edition of Sexual Inversion : CUTE.

Svenonious’s Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization: CUTE.

Taylor’s The Organization of Information: GROSS.

I felt my librarian sensibilities deeply compromised. Before moving in with Karen, I lived alone and had my own Anne Simmons system of arranging things loosely by subject and personal association, like FICTION or UNDERGRADUATE BOOKS. Despite a reverence for aesthetics, I felt that having the books in order created its own beauty, even if Suze Orman rested next to Ed Tufte (AUTHORS WITH SEMINARS). Alas, when one finds oneself at the intersection of professional proclivity and home decorating, it is often useful to ask “What would Martha Stewart do?”

Not only is Martha Stewart the pinnacle of stern lovliness–a quality many a librarian seeks to embody–she also has a lot to say about libraries (did anyone see when NYPL’s LeClerc was on her show?). In her latest reference work, Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home, she devotes an entire chapter to the keeping of one’s home library. The chapter is divided into two sections, “Layout Basics” and “Repairing Books.”

Her tips range from the mundane (a “do:” “Use bookmarks. Don’t lay books face down.” a “don’t:” “Don’t write in your books.”),

to the unexpected but helpful (“Stack large or heavy books in piles, don’t stack them so high, however, that reaching for the bottom books will cause the pile to topple”),

to Florence Flood-style absurdity, (“If books are muddy, hold them closed and rinse them”).

And check out this good thing I saw on her site: Linen Dust Shields. A technique used in old Swedish libraries (what is it with Swedish Libraries?) which, in addition to protecting volumes from dust, gives a “neat appearance to uneven volumes.” Oh dear! Even on the cute shelves my books were uneven. Now that I know about Linen Dust Shields my library can have the utilitarian off-site-storage quality its been missing. Thanks Martha!