Thursday, April 5, 2012

Everything From "A" Clear Down Through "Z"!



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We had Delia Ephron earlier this week—and she, of course, wrote the fabulous You’ve Got Mail. But, of course, most days, we don’t have mail. Real mail, that is.





I am still as eager as ever to check the mailbox every day, I really look forward to it with undiminished hope, but there’s never anything there anymore, except ads and junk and phony offers and tabloid looking things I don’t even know what are. And bills, of course. So, real mail is disappearing. Fine. And videotape, too, is on the way out. I’m a TV reporter, and for 30 years have used videotape cassettes. Now—no more .We’re all digital. But that’s fine, digital is good.



Bring in the new, if it’s better, all good.

So why, then, was I so bummed to see the Britannica Encyclopedia is no longer going to publish a print edition? Oh, we loved our Britannica. I read it, cover to cover. World Book, too. It was the arbiter of every discussion—“Go look it up” was a big manta in our house. I was so fascinated that you could find out ANYTHING.

We were fascinated by the color plates, and used to discuss which branch of the service had the coolest uniforms (Coast Guard) and which insects were the creepiest. (Was there something called a stag beetle? I have to go look it up… )

 We quizzed each other on the flags of all nations by covering the names with a finger, and ran outside to compare the constellations to the drawings on the shiny pages.

I suppose you can do that on line, too, But it was so—reassuring? To have all those nice volumes lined up on the bookshelf, just ready to tell you anything you wanted to know. Yeah, you can do that on line, too. But it’s not the same.

How do you feel about the end of the print-encyclopedia? (And can you spell it without singing?)

JAN BROGAN: - I was a World Book fan myself, loved to read them on the floor when I was a kid and even bought a used edition from the library sale for my kids that are downstairs in the bookcase. I really should throw them out, I suppose, because I look up everything on line. 
  
And because I look up so much online these days, I can't blame the Britannica people, but because I am prone to post-apocalyptic wondering, I wonder, what happens if the lights really go out? Is all that information we collected gone for good. Do we go back to the Dark Ages? Scary thought.


HALLIE EPHRON: I won't miss the Britannica, but I will miss those fabulous color plates. Precious gems were a favorite. And yes, beetles. We also had the Book of Knowledge series which my mother had loved when she was little but I confess, I never got into it. Which for some reason reminds me of the Book House books -- talk about fabulous plates!

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I know...it was a sad day in the Harris household when we decided to send the EB set to Goodwill. So we changed our minds. It still sits, unused for probably decades, not far from the exercise bicycle (I won't tell you how long that's been unused.)

HANK: Jan, that IS scary. I never thought about it that way...hmmm. Here's my new post-apocalyptic novel. Only the people who keep their paper encyclopedias will be able to know anything. The title? Rule Brittanica! Okay, maybe I'm a little tired.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hank, I love Rule Britannica! Brilliant! But what a scary thought. Maybe old encyclopedias would be traded like currency...

We had a cheap set when I was growing up--Compton's, maybe? I lusted after Britannica but my parents would never spend the money. Remember how expensive they were? $500 or so doesn't seem like much now when you can buy an iPad with it, but I'm sure to my folks it was a big deal.

So when my daughter started grade school, I bought Britannica. I was so proud, but I'm not sure she ever used them. Then by the time she went off to college DH and I argued over them for years, until I finally gave in and let them go. Sad.

Remember when encyclopedia salesmen went door to door? And vacuum cleaner salesmen? And the Fuller Brush man (although that I barely remember... I think I've just dated myself enough.)

HALLIE: This is bringing back memories. I had a VERY brief career as an encyclopedia salesperson. Went through the training. Then a single night in the field convinced me that I was not cut out to sell a very very expensive thing to people who most certainly could not afford it. Selling a dream, when what they needed was library cards.

RHYS BOWEN: Hallie, that's so funny. I did the same. I aced the training. I was by far the best in the class. Then I went out with a top salesperson and watched her tricking poor people into agreeing to buy something they couldn't afford because the way she put it to them to say no was admitting they didn't care about their kids' future. I quit after one day too. But I always loved my mother's set of Pictorial Knowledge with those plates that open up to reveal layers underneath.

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh my gosh, Hallie, what a story! I bet Rhys would be a whiz at sales in the right circumstance...I don't have a clear memory, but it seems to me we had half a set. Was that possible? That you bought them on an installment plan?

We also had a second set of very old books from which we were allowed to cut the photos in order to illustrate school reports:).

HANK: You could CUT them out? Whoa. Cool parents. And yes, you could buy some version of the encyclopedia at the grocery, right, one a week or a month?

LUCY BURDETTE: Just back to sales for a minute--I was let go from my first sales job after a day and a half. Simply didn't have the extroverted persona they needed to sell souvenirs...such a blow...

HANK: And now look--we're all selling ALL THE TIME! So Reds, what's your encyclopedic past? (And do you all recognize how I chose the title of this blog?) (and one lucky commenter will get an ARC of my new book THE OTHER WOMAN..coming soon!)

56 comments:

Karen in Ohio said...

Oh, yes, we had a set. Loved it, especially the "A" book, which included many color plates of animals. I spent hours reading about them and memorizing the photos' details. Funny, because I married a wildlife photographer when I was 30.

Our set also included two special additional books. One was a collection of folk tales and fairy tales, including Babe the Blue Ox, and others. My parents did not spend money on books; we used the public library, or I bought books from the Scholastic Book list that came out periodically. So as the oldest child who read to my siblings, that volume was perfect for me. The other book was full of what we'd now call factoids: the largest and smallest animals, with a graph that showed a human being next to them. Stuff like that. I was fascinated by the kind of information we never learned in school.

My mother bought them from a door-to-door salesman, too. As she bought insurance, a vacuum cleaner, many Fuller Brush items, and my sewing machine when I was in high school. We did not have a car, so the shopping came to us.

Joni said...

We had a beautiful set of Britannicas, updated by the Yearbook all the way through my college years. We also had a Grolier set. (See how much parents "cared" about my education?) But I most remember the set The Great Books of the Western World, which my dad bought in 1963, and which still sits in my basement. I've actually picked up a couple of them, when I had one of those weird urges to read something classic. We also still have the Harvard Classics, although some of those came down with a bit of mildew last year...

Hallie Ephron said...

I volunteer at my local library's used bookshop, and everyone groans when I set of old encyclopedias comes in. Very hard to sell.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

But isn't it fun to read old encyclopedias and see what isn't "right" anymore?

Sandi said...

We had a set of Collier's Encyclopedias that I just loved. My favorites were the D (dogs) and H (horses). When I was about 11 I could name every breed in the books. There was also a section with clear plastic overlays of the human body - one sheet had skin, the next has the circulatory system, the next the endocrine system, then the digestive system... right down to the last page that just had bones. Along with that was a set of 10 books called Collier's Junior Classics, full of stories. The first was ABC, Go! and had the simplest stories. One was Harvest of Holidays, with stories from each holiday. Another was Magic is in the Air, and I remember a story about a djinn that just fascinated me. We also had the yearbooks - one for each year, mid-sixties through the mid-seventies, I think.

Tammy said...

We had an old set of the Book of Knowledge, which (I think) was less encyclopaedic (I think I spelled that right, it's early) and more ... interesting? story-based? I'm sure my mother still has them, as they were vintage even 35 years ago.

I have mixed feelings about no more print encyclopedias, and I've decided that I'm more nostalgic for the time when comprehensive knowledge of the world could be contained on a shelf. It's more that than sad about no more piles of heavy, out-of-date volumes. Because I think 1990s encyclopedias are some of the saddest books ever--they're not so old that they're cool, but they're just plain wrong.

I love print materials, but on the other hand, I have no love for useless ones, such as print manuals for software (I fight the battle to stop printing them at my day job).

Karen in Ohio said...

Did anyone else get an encyclopedia on CD when you bought a Windows computer? Seems like we had two or three of them around for awhile.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh,I forgot about yearbooks/ Yes, those were wonderful.

And Sandi, we loved learning all the dog breeds too. Rhodesian Ridgeback. Saluki.

And so interesting Tammy, because you may be right that it's about nostalgia. And also in a print encyclopedia, it was much more--black and white. Here's what someone has decided is CORRECT, and here's how you should think about it.

Darlene Ryan said...

Tammy, we had the Book of Knowledge as well, an out off date set given to us by someone at the church. One volume was all Greek and Roman myths, probably not appropriate for an eight or nine year-old to be reading.I remember a teacher--Grade 5 maybe--explaining if something was in the encyclopedia or on the news on TV (Hank?) then it had to be true.

Joni said...

It was just in the last ten years that I threw out my grandfather's missing-one-volume set of 1911 Britannicas. Broke my heart, but it was one volume short of a set (borrowed in the 1920s, my dad said). I do still have a full, monogramed on the leather set called Burton Holmes' Travelogues, from 1914; talk about out of date! The stereotypes from his travels to the Middle East and to China and Japan would curl your toes.

Linda Rodriguez said...

We had a Compton's Encyclopedia set when I was a kid, along with a complete Shakespeare and the Great Books of the Western World. I used to pore over those books, wanting to absorb all that knowledge. Later, for my own kids, I was advised to go buy a slightly older set of Britannicas because they weren't using the top experts in the field anymore to write encyclopedia entries but graduate students instead. Cheaper.

Hank, I love Rule Britannica!

If you're really worried about this collapse and the loss of knwledge, Jan, move in next to me. For years, I've been buying old books that teach how to do things hardly anyone can do anymore--spinning, raising and shearing sheep, weaving, making soap (from lye), braiding rugs, raising bees, raising and milking goats, building cabins and barns, etc. (I have all the Foxfire books.) I learn these old survival skills because I don't want to see them die out. The time may come when we'll need them again, and everyone who knows them will be dead. I've got books with more skills than I've managed to learn yet, but I figure when it all goes to pot, I can teach myself from the books. ;-)

William Simon said...

We were a World Book house, and it was a sacred thing. Those encyclopedias got me through high school. I understand the concept of technology, but it's kind of sad to see WB and Britannica go the way of the dinosaurs.

Margie B. said...

I remember that one of the 6th grade teachers at my grade school--Mr. Pinkowitz, I believe (how do I remember that??) sold World Books door to door, and my parents bought a set in blue. They were higher in status than the red set, but not nearly as prestigious as the white set (oh, how I lusted after those!). I don't think I got rid of them until my kids were in school, by which time they were sadly out of date.

Dani said...

We had two sets when I was growing up, but the Compton's are still my favorite for the great photographs. I know you can find anything and everything Googling these days, but when I need a photo for a dog or horse breed... or chickens or cats... I go to the Compton's first. I spent hours reading those books as a kid. I hope my folks will them to me. Must ask!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Well, of course, Darlene, if it's on TV, it's TRUE. OOhh, yes indeedy.

S. E. Toon said...

A bookcase stretched across the thin hallway that led to the bathroom, which we had knicknamed "the library". Anchoring the wooden boards to the floor wasa set of encyclopedias. My favorire thing was taking one and just opening it at random. Whatever page revealed itself was what I would learn or where I would go for the day.
Downside, the watercolored plates of yore get me a panic when I was very young. I opened the book and there was a beautiful spread showing a idyllic fifties family in the backyard. Picnic table was draped in red gingham, a brick alter of a barb-b-q was puffing smoke from its stack and Dad proudly donned a chef's hat while while his 2.5 kids eagerly awaited franks, burgers and grilled coen on the cob. BENEATH the yard, drawn in close up the encyclopedia revealed the insects that lived below; ants as big as station wagons, earwigs with pinchers that could snap the picnic table in two and other creepy crawlers that were drawn way out of proportion.
It took a week to walk again on our manicured lawn and at night I could hear the massive dinosaurs chiseling there way from under our suburban paradise to nibble on my toes.
Thank you, Britannica.

Rosemary Harris said...

Jan, Hallie...in the original film version of The Time Machine the books had turned to dust and were replaced by talking rings - which no one ever spun until the visitor from the past arrives. After the apocalypse you gals are welcome to come over and consult Bruce's print edition of EB.
Joni, Great Books of the Western World - did they come in a small wooden bookcase/fake brown leather? I bought a set at a tag sale a few years back when I thought I might actually read them. Got 50 onionskin-like pages into Marcus Aurelius before giving to Goodwill!

storyteller mary said...

My parents found the money to have encyclopedias in our home, a tangible proof of the value they placed on our education. Dad would browse through them for fun and point out interesting information, and we could always find sources for homework assignments. The second set (first was a book-a-week supermarket promo) was from a door-to-door salesperson and had yearly update volumes and coupons for extra info. I remember one paper on Elizabethan clothing styles I wrote using that resource. We couldn't even have imagined our friends at Google!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, Mary, it is fascinating how parents used encyclopedias to connect with their kids--maybe also because it was a relief to know there was a place that had all the answers!

Thinking about this..I met a lovely person at..Love is Murder? Who wrote real encyclopedia entries. Wish I could remember who that was..

ANd Ro, after the apocalypse, we are ALL coming to your house.

And yes, Stacey, the BUGS. My sister and I used to figt, trying to force each other to touch the color plates of the beetles.

Lynn M said...

The encyclopedia we had at home was a very inexpensive Funk & Wagners or something. Not too many cool illustrations. But I volunteered at the school library and would browse the school encyclopedias just for the pictures for me it was the solar system. I am a Star Trek kid!

Deb said...

I'll go to Ro's if Linda will come and teach us how to make butter and braid rugs and all those other things.

We did have Compton's--I looked them up on, um, Google. I think the 1943 edition, as they would have been bought for my older brother, not me. I loved them even if they weren't Britannica, and of course memorized every breed of horse, dog, and cat.

You can get Britannica on DVD for $39!! And you can still get print sets--$1300!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Deb and Hank, you've got it. We all make our way to Ro's when the lights go out. I'll bring the spinning wheels and treadle sewing machine--and the crank-handled butter churn.

C Wallace Walker said...

My grandparents never owned a television. They had a World Book set that we consulted to learn about all things American. Even though we always washed our hands before using the books, the illustrated pages of dog breeds became quite tatty.

cttiger said...

Our Britannica set was way out of date by the time I was big enough to lift a volume, but I still loved it. I could sit for hours, after a picking a volume at random, just going from one subject to the next. My idea of a great afternoon. And yes, I was a weird kid.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Funk and WAGNALLS! (Who watched Laugh In?)

Lisa Alber said...

I had encyclopedia envy as a kid. My parents didn't own a set, I think because of money. At my best friend's house, I used to gravitate to her World Book set and invent reasons to look things up. To me, owning a set of encyclopedia was the ultimate luxury item. I wanted one SO bad. I begged for one the way other kids begged for puppies.

Not long ago friends and I were discussing what could be another post-apocalyptic story idea: human beings that know nothing because they can look everything at any time--no need to store knowledge in our brains anymore. (I already feel like I've succumbed to this.)

In Jan's post-apocalyptic scenario, I picture Luddites with knowledge stored in their heads taking over. It would be like Ireland back in the middle ages--all those monks writing down the knowledge while the rest of Europe went dark. (Fascinating book: HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION.)

Dru said...

We had the World Book Encyclopedia and I read that from cover to cover and if anyone had to look up something, I always volunteered to do it. I love the pictures and everything about it. My mom still has it on the book shelf.

Reine said...

Hank, such great memories of reading encyclopedias for fun - and no, I had to sing along with Jiminy Cricket! Hilarious!

Hallie and Rhys, we had the Encyclopedia Americana in our house. We were one of the poor families who got snookered, but one child and all her friends benefitted. It worked out. My parents would have spent the money on something else.

The downside of being rescued by Auntie-Mom was having to leave the encyclopedia behind.

Darlene Ryan said...

Linda, can I come live next to you when the apocalypse hits? I know how to fix the toilet with dental floss and how to turn a coat by hand.

Reine said...

Darlene, What does it mean, "to turn a coat?" Maybe I should get with the apocalypse?

Hank, I should have studied apocalyptics in div school. Damn.

Oh weird. my captcha is tandinic esp. Helllllllp!

Karen in Ohio said...

Making butter is easy, as long as you do it accidentally, the way I did it. (Whip the cream too much, and butter it becomes, which is not nearly as good as whipped cream on strawberries, if you must know.)

In the last four years I've learned to do a lot of things I never knew how to do before, ever since we bought a farm. I'm willing to share that info, as well as how to sew many different kinds of things. And, even better, I may have enough fabric stashed away to clothe everyone we know. :-)

"Put that in your Funk & Wagnalls!" Loved Laugh-In. Which had so many amazing guests, like Richard Nixon, of all people.

Jungle Red Writers said...

And the winner of Lori Roy's book from yesterday is: NANCY!

Nancy, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and let me know your address!

Hurray--and thank you all for being here today!

Deb Romano said...

Oh,YES!I love encyclopedias! My parents bought our set from a door-to-person. (Could all our parents have purchased from the same person?!!) I wonder how many companies sold them that way? I no longer remember which version we had but I do know that it was a financial sacrifice for my parents -we lived in a housing project and it was tough for them just to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Sandi, you described a set very much like ours,with the same sort of section on the human body! I loved to pull out one book at a time and pick out topics to read. I remember doing a major presentation in high school, inspired by an article I read in the encyclopedia. I did the rest of my research at the library. For many years,my parents continued to buy the annual yearbooks.

Our set also came with a multi-volume set of stories to read. The books were red, if that rings a bell for anyone. Some of the stories were short stories, some were excerpts from classics and from more recent books. I think each book had a different theme. I first discovered some of my favorite authors through those books, and I would then go on to borrow their books from the library. My mom gave the whole set to my younger sister who gave birth to the first grandchild. He is now 32, married, and just became a dad last week! I wonder if my sister still has them? When I see her for Easter,I'll have to ask her! The encyclopedias predate most of the space program!

The entire collection...encyclopedias and other books...came with three sets of bookshelves. My parents opted to pay extra to get the shelves. We already had so many books in the house. They were avid readers themselves and passed along to us their love of reading.

And,by the way,for three years I was a telemarketer -it was my night job, selling encyclopedias and other educational books. That was quite a few years ago. It seems to me the books were sold one or two at a time. I believe the annual yearbook was on CD. Until I started that job,I had no idea how starved for books people were who lived out in the middle of nowhere. It really made me appreciate my public library. Some of our most faithful customers were military families who often did not live that close to a library or bookstore. (By the way,I HATED telemarketng but I loved the products. My nieces and nephews loved the books I bought fo them with my discount.)

Although I do own a Kindle (the main selling point was that it came loaded with the Oxford English Dictionary...because I love dictionaries,too!), I cannot imagine reading an electronic version of an encyclopedia. In my opinion,there is a need for both print books AND the electronic version of books.Parents of children with learning disabilities have told me how the learning process was enhanced for their kids in one way or another when they started to use electronic readers in the classroom. I do love the "feel"of a book in my hands and I like to underline and take notes in a real book. I have used those features in my Kindle but it is not the same thing for me. I am sure that kids who are born today will have no trouble accepting these features. (There must have been quite a learning curve for people switching from scrolls to bound books!)

Deb Romano said...

Oh,YES!I love encyclopedias! My parents bought our set from a door-to-person. (Could all our parents have purchased from the same person?!!) I wonder how many companies sold them that way? I no longer remember which version we had but I do know that it was a financial sacrifice for my parents -we lived in a housing project and it was tough for them just to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Sandi, you described a set very much like ours,with the same sort of section on the human body! I loved to pull out one book at a time and pick out topics to read. I remember doing a major presentation in high school, inspired by an article I read in the encyclopedia. I did the rest of my research at the library. For many years,my parents continued to buy the annual yearbooks.

Our set also came with a multi-volume set of stories to read. The books were red, if that rings a bell for anyone. Some of the stories were short stories, some were excerpts from classics and from more recent books. I think each book had a different theme. I first discovered some of my favorite authors through those books, and I would then go on to borrow their books from the library. My mom gave the whole set to my younger sister who gave birth to the first grandchild. He is now 32, married, and just became a dad last week! I wonder if my sister still has them? When I see her for Easter,I'll have to ask her! The encyclopedias predate most of the space program!

The entire collection...encyclopedias and other books...came with three sets of bookshelves. My parents opted to pay extra to get the shelves. We already had so many books in the house. They were avid readers themselves and passed along to us their love of reading.

And,by the way,for three years I was a telemarketer -it was my night job, selling encyclopedias and other educational books. That was quite a few years ago. It seems to me the books were sold one or two at a time. I believe the annual yearbook was on CD. Until I started that job,I had no idea how starved for books people were who lived out in the middle of nowhere. It really made me appreciate my public library. Some of our most faithful customers were military families who often did not live that close to a library or bookstore. (By the way,I HATED telemarketng but I loved the products. My nieces and nephews loved the books I bought fo them with my discount.)

Although I do own a Kindle (the main selling point was that it came loaded with the Oxford English Dictionary...because I love dictionaries,too!), I cannot imagine reading an electronic version of an encyclopedia. In my opinion,there is a need for both print books AND the electronic version of books.Parents of children with learning disabilities have told me how the learning process was enhanced for their kids in one way or another when they started to use electronic readers in the classroom. I do love the "feel"of a book in my hands and I like to underline and take notes in a real book. I have used those features in my Kindle but it is not the same thing for me. I am sure that kids who are born today will have no trouble accepting these features. (There must have been quite a learning curve for people switching from scrolls to bound books!)

Linda Rodriguez said...

LOL, Darlene. We're all going to Ro's house. Come join us there. You've got some impressive skills. Dental floss! Who'da thunk?

Linda Rodriguez said...

Hah, Karen, between us we can probably clothe everyone and their families from our fabric stashes. My problem is that I have as big a fiber stash. I never have time to use any of them up anymore. Writing and its concomitant business has taken over my life.

Deb Romano said...

Sorry I posted twice but Captcha told me that my words were wrong and to try again!

Darlene Ryan said...

Reine, you turn a coat by taking it apart and turning it inside out so the fabric that used to face in now faces out. Then you sew it back together. I did a lot of those frugal hacks for my late father-in-law who was very tight with his money.

Reine said...

Darlene, you did that? Holy! When I was a little girl, before the time of my mother's craziness, she made me beautiful coats. She would get an old one from Goodwill and cut it down. She looked for one with fur trim, so she could add that to the collar and cuffs. When it was time to start school, she found one with so much fur she was able to trim the coat and make a hat and muff to match.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

When I was growing up in the 50s, we had a set of World Book Encyclopedias from 1937. I still remember the statistics/stories/pix, etc. about "The War", commonly referred to now as WWI.

My favorite thing about the encyclopedia is the presumed level of accuracy. My wife has taught many classes on judging the validity and accuracy of web data. All sources are not equal.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

.

I am sitting at my desk at work, fascinated by coat turning. I am imagining it, I am considering it. I am thinking about how it could be used as a clue in a mystery.

And Deb Romano, I read your post twice, it was so interesting! xoo

Hi, Tiger! So great to see you!

Nancy Jo said...

We had a set of encyclopedia. I can't remember which ones, but in my mind's eye I can see looking something up, probably something to do with archaeology since I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up (now I don't like getting my hands dirty potting plants!).

Anyway, I remember the encyclopedia volumes being in the same little bookcase with the well worn Nancy Drew,
books, the Hardy Boys, and Reader's Digest condensed books.

Thanks for the memories!

Nancy Jo said...

I used to turn coats as a little side business when i lived in New Orleans 25 years ago. I would never think of doing that now!

Rosemary Harris said...

Party at Ro's post-apocalypse. It will be like Herschel's farm on The Walking Dead. (Does anyone here get that reference?) I have a lot of vintage things that still work...like my husband.

Used to love reading the dictionary..and it was never about the word I was looking up, but the others around it.

reine said...

Rosemary, ditto what you said!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey, Nancy Jo! Yeah, I'll never look at a coat the same way.

And yes, with you, Ro. You'd find the word you were looking for--and so many more!

Jim, that's just what I mean--the history that didn't exist yet..

Linda Rodriguez said...

Reine and Hank, it's like turning the collar on a shirt (only MUCH more work). Darlene, your father-in-law had a good daughter-in-law in you.

Deb, there's actually a good video that was all over Facebook a few months ago about medieval monks adjusting to books from scrolls. Hilarious! I'll find it and post the link.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Oh, yes, Ro. That's why I hate that the university where I used to work has fallen for this fad of a robot to grab the book you request and no one allowed to wander the stack any longer. Serendipity was the joy of wandering through the dictionary and encyclopedia and it's the joy of wandering library stacks and encountering books you didn't know enough to ask for on the shelf above the book you were looking for.

Edith Maxwell said...

Oh! I'm coming into this lovely discussion so late (the blog wasn't up at my usual early hour and then work called for many hours).

We had, I think, four encyclopedias when I was growing up, and yes, one was so old we were allowed to cut pictures out for reports. How important were these rows of books?

At dinner, when some question would come up, my (high-school teacher) father would rise, fetch the appropriate reference volume, bring it to the table, and answer the question.

When I reentered the paid work force in 1994 after a few years home with my babies, the first thing I bought was a World Book. We still pull volumes off the shelf and look things up, despite having three computers in the house.

Last bit? I was a Fuller Brush girl one summer in high school. We had little paper catalogs instead of the big suitcase. I realized I hated it but stuck it out for the summer so I could earn bonus points and buy a set of ... wait for it ... parfait glasses!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Aw...Edith. Parfait glasses. Adorable.

Edith Maxwell said...

Hank, they were for my trousseau. Weeping with laughter...

Dani said...

Oh, dear people, I found a 1964 Compton's at eBay, same exact set I had way back then. How cool is that? Squeee! Thanks for the inspiration. Hope I win!

Patrick Odea said...

I almost about fell off my seat with what Darlene Ryan commented! Haha, that was hysterical! How about living next to an oakley family dentistry clinic? That would be a great big help for sure. ;)

Mathew Cain said...

I'm really worried with what I will be doing to my book collection now that I am going to move in a flat that I rented. My book collection consists of encyclopedia, novels and different reading materials.

Kevin Lee said...

Hi Matthew! Just like you, I do have so many reference books in my house. What I did when I move out from my old house is that I put all the books I own in a container box. Hope it helps!