Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Piles of Books for the Taking

I have written before (e.g., 3/27/12) about how books move around in my life, as they probably do in yours: to and from the library, to and from bookstores, to and from friends, from home to office and vice versa, etc. I also mentioned that sometimes colleagues at work put piles of unwanted books outside their office doors for students or others to take if they want them. Over the summer there have been several moves on my office floor and the floor above, as one person retired, another became a Dean and moved to a Dean’s office, another moved to a different floor, and new faculty moved in to their offices. The moving around and packing up of office contents made people go through their shelves and discard books they no longer used, older editions, etc. So in the past couple of months, I have seen several of those book piles in our hallways. Sometimes they have a hand-lettered sign saying “Free,” or “Help yourself,” or “Take what you want.” Even without signs, it is generally understood that books in the hallways outside office doors are up for grabs. I am oddly fascinated by watching the piles diminish. One day I will see a tall pile, the next day it is smaller, the following day smaller still, with perhaps a lone rejected book or two left. And then somehow even those disappear. It is a simple and elegant solution to the problem of too many books, which is a problem most people in my field (education) have eventually. The former owners clear space on their shelves, and a student or perhaps a fellow faculty member picks up a new book or two of interest, free. I find this whole interchange strangely satisfying to observe (and occasionally participate in). It makes me happy to see each book find a new home.

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