Cleaning and Preserving

Photo of Absorene cleaners for books paper wallpaper and walls

Photo from the Absorene website

What makes my little heart beat fast today? Buying the supplies for cleaning and preserving my books, in an archivally correct fashion. Hah! Calling them my books when they are destined for the shelves of paying booklovers everywhere? It’s a slippery slope!  

Does cleaning and preserving books sound a bit dry? Not to me.  I love them. And it’s a business expense

I crack myself up.

When I first thought of going to  library school I hoped to end up in some vast repository of historic and antiquarian books, or at least an archive of Papers from Important People. Was the Bodleian too much to ask?  Just a quick internet search on the Bod brings tears to my eyes.

But it was not to be- not yet, or not so far, anyway. I saw ‘the Internet’ for the first time when I started library school. Netscape Navigator! There was much talk, you can believe, about how hypertext was a revolution in the making. I wish I could put hands on some of ye olde rambling and run on grad school papers of yore, authored by yours truly!  

I went through library school with a best friend whose focus was preservation. If it wasn’t on paper, preferably old paper, she wasn’t interested. And from the moment I first laid eyes on ‘the web,’ if it wasn’t on a computer screen, I wasn’t interested. As one of my friends put it at the time, I took information retrieval. I Stopped I Stemmed I Parsed! I wish I could take credit for that, And translate it to Latin, too.

How things do come full circle.  I spent eleven years as a professional 1. Working with bibliographic control/circulation software (the library version of inventory control) and teaching computer/internet literacy  2. Weeding collections (tossing dead weight books, lots and lots of them), and for the last 4 years I have been 3. Reconciling myself to the reality that I cannot hoard/store a personal book collection, we just don’t have the room in our new California-real-estate-market digs and 4. Due to number 3, committing to put my money where my mouth is as regards letting the public library be my collection.

And yet… and yet. There I was in late June, packing and shipping TWO TONS of books and shelves home to my teensy California-real-estate-market gar- I mean Warehouse and Shipping Center. Here I am today, chortling and rubbing my hands together- literally! – at the prospect of data entering, vendor listing, shelving in order, and cleaning and preserving these books.

The irony.

Nobody thinks about this stuff, any of this stuff, except librarians. I am not the neat, organized, pleasant, Miss Honey type of librarian. Many, perhaps most of us, are not. But I think what we share is great joy in and passion for Thinking About things qualitatively, in terms of process and the health of systems and Doing Things Right so they will Work. It is such a joy to have my own little collection and business on which to exercise all of these. 

Nonetheless, even though nobody thinks about this stuff any more, and because I simply cannot take the time to write yet another rambling and run on treatise about the delicious fare of Library and Information Science in the late Twentieth, here are some links. 

Possibly the REAL most important text of Library and Information Science in the Late Twentieth, which I believe I got from the same best friend who became a documents conservator: The  Full Text of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, courtesy of the Library of Maxim Moshkova With the Support of the Federal Agency For Press and Mass Communications. Hey, looks legit. 

(For further reading, Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash should be next.)

 “As We May Think” by the father of hypertext Vannevar Bush from the Atlantic Monthly 1945;

Very handy Wikipedia article on The Five Laws of Library Science by the father of same, S.R. Ranganathan;

The other prophet besides Gibson of my library school years Theodor Holm Nelson’s personal web pageHe was teaching at UC Santa Cruz this past winter and I missed it? Really? 

Best wishes,



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