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Thu, Jul. 19th, 2012, 06:16 pm

I continue to theorize that some librarians just plain hate books.

Yesterday when I got there, there were ungodly numbers of donations piled up, enough that I had to clear out the entire current booksale section and send everything that hadn't sold at our branch since last week off to the main library, just so I'd have somewhere to put the new stuff out. After a few hours, I thought I'd finished, but then peeked into one of three boxes that were stacked up on a cart near "my" desk. More books. The first box was fairly standard stuff-- an entire set of 80s/90s Tolkien editions (including a copy of _Unfinished Tales_ which the owner obviously never finished). It did have some vintage SF/F magazines from the 70s/80s that looked like they might have some resale value on Amazon, so I put those into a bin to send to the Amazon selling crew at Main and kept going.

The second box... ah, the second box. There was an delicate "old book" scent: part mildew, part dust, and part decaying paper/ink. The first item I pulled out was a dainty string-bound pamphlet, maybe about 20pp long and about the size of a large index card, with a textured rice-paper cover. It was in beautiful condition, with bright lithographed illustrations and crisp clean pages. It was an English-language edition of a traditional Japanese folktale, published in Japan in 1938.

I checked the value on Amazon. There's another copy currently selling for $250.

The one I'd pulled out of the box was part of a set of 10+ pamphlets of other Japanese folktales, all of the same age/condition.

These last two boxes almost entirely contained English-language books printed ~1935-1940 inside Japan, many of them about the then-current geopolitical situation and reassuringly saying things like, "We're a modern industrial country with nothing but friendly feelings toward the USA, although we're best buds with those Mussolini and Hitler guys too." There was also a travel book that cheerfully described interesting things to see in Japan proper (including historical features of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and probably large swaths of Tokyo that would get firebombed) as well as the expanded territories of Taiwan, Manchuria, and whatever their name was for occupied Korea. And an adventure-travelogue in which the author described sightseeing throughout the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia that hadn't been occupied yet but eventually would be.

The librarian-normally-in-charge was incredulous when I waved Amazon printouts at her. "I was going to throw all of those away after closing time so patrons wouldn't see me putting books in the dumpster," she said. "They looked so nasty and old." (They're actually in remarkably good condition for their age.) "Why would anyone want to pay that much for something like this?"

("But they're booooooks," I wailed quietly to myself. Still, mission accomplished; she's vowed (at least temporarily) not to summarily discard donation boxes until I have a chance to sweep through them for Amazonable items to send to Main. This may wear off. I have long suspected her of surreptitiously picking off perfectly good books from the booksale and dumpstering them because the booksale area looked too "crowded" or "messy".)

So, most of those two boxes got sent off to the Amazon booksale department. Some of them may be waiting to see me again when I go to Main tomorrow for my Amazon listing/mailing shift. I'm still tempted to carry off the 1946 medical magazine chockfulla ads for reproductive technology and the obligatory "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette" page.

There are valedictory notes inside some of the books that indicate that they were given as gifts when the owner returned from Japan to the US in 1940. The medical magazine has a scrawled ballpoint note on the cover to look at a certain page, which has a group medical-school graduation photo on it. I don't know whether the owner is the one Japanese-American woman in the group, who may've been interned within the US for several years before then.

Fri, Jul. 20th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)

*brain goes blank*

Wow... that's... okay, those are fascinating and extremely valuable from a historical perspective. If they get put up, can you send me the listing information? Or, would the library consider donating them to a university library? Because those sorts of documents really need to be preserved, and I can put you in contact with relevant folks who would love to have that stuff in their university's collections.

(I am trying REALLY HARD not to covet the folktales books, because that sounds amazing, and really beautiful, and I cannot in fact afford them at the prices they are clearly worth.....it's not working, but I am trying really hard.)

Fri, Jul. 20th, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC)

The library is eternally scrambling for funding-- I am even having trouble wheedling them to buy bubble wrap and other packing material, which has resulted in some horrifying situations like an autographed copy of Stephen Jay Gould's first book getting mangled in the Snail when it was sent out in a plain padded envelope (without insurance) and a truck literally ran over it. So I don't know if there would be much luck in persuading them to donate stuff. (esp. when apparently some recently-retired(?) members of the library board somehow disappeared some of the Amazon proceeds from last year into misc. "operational expenses" for the board instead of actually, y'know, releasing the money back to the library.)

But I might be able to leave a note to the other volunteers to set aside any of these that don''t get listed. There's a weird informal arrangement with a bookstore in Germany that specializes in English-language Western novels(????), so whenever we get a Western that doesn't meet the individual item cutoff, it goes into a box for them; when the box gets full, it gets mailed off.

There is one item that might be skimmable with a clear conscience-- the donation set had two different copies of a photo book called "GIrls of Japan", showing a range of ordinary (and fully clothed) Japanese girls and young women doing a range of ordinary activities in the 1930s. One of them had its binding falling apart and the back cover missing, so they may not bother listing that one-- should I try to carry it off for you if I see it again?

(That book, and a number of others, has no current listings *anywhere*, so I don't know how they'll come up with valuation estimates. The mind, it is boggled.)

Fri, Jul. 20th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)

Wow. Um. Yes, anything that they are not going to bother listing, I will quite happily take. I would absolutely buy all of it directly (plus of course paying for shipping and whatever packing material you need), but I worry that I would only be able to offer far less than what it is clearly worth based on the Amazon listing you quote.

(ah, the plight of the book-mad historian)

ETA: At least re: the price on folktale pamphlet you quoted; I have no idea what the listed value of the other English-language Japanese books might be. And I will close LJ now so that I cease spazzing about "Eeee! Books! I can totally find a way to fit that into the budget please let me buy them!" *g*

Edited at 2012-07-20 07:08 pm (UTC)

Sat, Jul. 21st, 2012 04:56 am (UTC)

It'll probably take a while before most of those books get listed, depending on whether someone stops to take cover photos first, but the library's Amazon storefront should be at http://www.amazon.com/gp/shops/storefront/index.html?ie=UTF8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&sellerID=A2CXFAJLVZ1UGB ?