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Handling old books by the public

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Jeannie Whited 1 week, 3 days ago.

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  • #139743

    David C

    During the summer, volunteers staff a one-room schoolhouse in our town. The interior is set up with books, maps, desks and stove like it would have been in the early 1900’s. The contents of the schoolhouse are owned by our Historical Society. The volunteers work under the direction of the town.

    Ever since the schoolhouse was opened to the public (1980’s), the public has been free to roam the whole interior, sit at the desks, take books off the shelves open them and read them. I’m not thrilled allowing the public to take books off the shelves. Last year I did an inventory before the schoolhouse was opened for the summer and again in the late fall when the schoolhouse was closed for the winter. Out of about 350 books, 6 are now missing.

    I’m curious if anyone else has a one-room schoolhouse and if so, do you cordon off part of the interior where books might be? I have suggested we not allow our books to be handled, but others want visitors to freely take books off the shelves and read them. They insist books were meant to be opened and read rather than just have the cover or the book’s spine looked at. Many of our books date back to the late 1800’s.

    David Cranston, Curator
    Hadley-Lake Luzerne Historical Society
    52 Main St – PO Box 275
    Lake Luzerne, NY

  • #139748

    Jeannie Whited

    Have you considered buying some prop books, and removing any that have actual historic or financial value? Used book sites such as have literally hundreds of antique books for very little money. For example, I put in a search for books published 1860-1900 with “primer” in the keyword, for under $5, and got things like v.2 of the Collected Works of Shakespeare, Methode Berlitz, and Physical Geography (among others). You might also work out something with a used book store – they can seldom sell such books for anything other than props or to be cut up for artwork.

    Much as we hate to say it, not all old books have value. And it sounds like blocking off the shelves changes the nature of the experience. But if you must, you could take plex and just screw or clip it on – it probably wouldn’t look great though.

    It also sounds like you have some solid numbers to give your volunteers when training them about interacting with the public. Station someone near the books, maybe have a couple out and invite folks to flip through those. If it’s that serious an issue, ban packpacks, large totes, etc.

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