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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

What We Keep Hidden Away

This post begins with a tweet.

When I read Sharon’s message here, I wanted two things simultaneously. First, I wanted that Jack Kent book for myself. In a world where the most Kent you can hope for is The Caterpillar and the Polliwog or Joey Runs Away, I wanted this robin in all his roly-poly glory. Second, Shannon said something key there: “… we still have this one which we keep in a special cabinet to extend its life.”

Lord howdy, I thought I was the only one with that cabinet. Or, in my case, it’s always been a drawer. The drawer of books where you keep the things you can’t stand to weed.

Once upon a time I worked in New York Public Library’s Central Children’s Room at 42nd Street. We were required to weed the collection, an act I hated. Not because I dislike weeding (in principle) but because the collection had been so much larger when it had been at the Donnell Library previously that it felt like a crime to winnow it down even further. Still, you do it, right? You’re a librarian. Weeding’s part of the game. But there was this one circulating book I couldn’t bear to part with. It’s cover was torn. It looked like death warmed over. I had no desire to read it myself, and yet I couldn’t condemn it to a recycled grave.

Mind you, this was before Poppins had her current Renaissance. You can get a paperback of this book easy peasy as of 2018. But at the time it was out-of-print and I was working for a library that would occasionally put Travers’ umbrella (the one with the parrot head – yes, it is real) on display. So maybe it was an odd justification but I felt I had to keep this book in the system. Trouble was, it was too ugly to keep on the shelf. The solution? Well, not a cabinet exactly, but a drawer. Alongside two or three other books in similar situations, I would keep the book tucked away. Then, when the morning holds list / pick list came out, I’d inspect it to see if any of those books were included. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn’t. But by gum, I kept them in stock.

These days I’m a voracious weeder (I’m literally going to a presentation by the women who run Awful Library Books today). Still, I regret nothing. And I suspect that I’m not alone. Shannon’s post proved as much.

So fess up, librarians. Let it out. What do you keep in a drawer or cabinet or closet that you cannot part with?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Paul Gallico’s THE MAN WHO WAS MAGIC, a gorgeous fantasy about a real magician in a kingdom of stage-magicians–Adam the Simple doesn’t know he’s the only one who isn’t faking it. He has a wonderfully sarcastic talking dog, and there’s a girl who wants to be a magician, not just an assistant!…WHY is this book out of print?

    And I used to have Catherine Storr’s THE CHINESE EGG, a really GOOD mystery, but someone checked it out and walked off with it.

    And Mary Ellen Chase’s LORETTA MASON POTTS, which is dated in every way except the most important one: sibling rivalry never goes out of style.

  2. Margaret says

    I have an AIMS Media VHS tape, “Ducks.” According to the notes in the case, it was part of a Starting to Read, “a series of 12 films for K-3 grade level that introduces vocabulary words in lively settings with an original song.” We used to use it in storytimes.

    We don’t circulate VHS tapes any more, we don’t have a VHS player either, and I’m not sure the tape would play anyhow, but I can’t bear to part with it because I think the song is one of the Great Kids’ Songs Of All Time. Fortunately I still remember a lot of it:

    “Duck is a word that stands for a bird
    that walks on little web feet.
    Feathers on its back and it talks with a quack
    to anyone it might meet.
    Ducks are big and ducks are small.
    Ducks are short and ducks are tall.
    There are many kinds and colors:
    some are white and there are others.
    Brown and green and tan and yellow —
    yellow like this little fellow.
    Ducks take baths like you and I,
    but ducks do not need towels to dry.”

  3. Carl in Charlotte says

    OK, Betsy, you let slip a tantalizing tidbit that I’m going to obsess over until you tell me. You said that the Travers book was in a drawer “Alongside two or three other books in similar situations” WHAT WERE THOSE OTHER BOOKS?? Please tell me soon!

  4. Carl in Charlotte says

    That’s OK. It was along time ago. I’ll check back sometime and see if you can ever retrieve those titles out of your mental memory files.

  5. I haven’t been able to keep them in the system, but I’ve rescued them from the discard pile: Marguerite de Angeli’s books including Skippack School, Thee, Hannah, and Henner’s Lydia. Yup, I’m in Pennsylvania. Our library even has an original Marguerite de Angeli sketch which we believe she drew during a children’s program here.

    • Oo! Now there’s an idea for a post. The sketches that authors and illustrators create during their visits. A de Angeli would be magnificent to have on hand!