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four shelf-feet

So, the conversation went like this, more or less:

Library Director: There he is.

YHB: Er…

Library Director: Do you want an OED?

YHB: … you mean, want an OED?

Library Director: Yeah.

YHB: … you mean, to have?

Library Director: Yeah, an OED. I thought you might want it.

YHB: … the whole…

Library Director: The whole set.

YHB: …yes?

Library Director: It’s on this cart. If you want a more recent one, there’s one at [another place in the University], you can have whichever you want.

YHB: No, this is fine. This is great. Thank you.

Library Director: I thought you might want it.

YHB: Yes. Yes, I do.

So. I have seventeen volumes (including the 1961 Supplement and the four volumes of the supplement completed in 1986) of somewhat dusty OED sitting on a cart behind my desk, waiting for the opportune moment to begin the journey home to the house. Where it will… er… well, if I have to buy another bookshelf, I will. Right?

Sometimes, working in a library rocks. Within certain very loose conceptualizations of rocking that involve very old, somewhat dusty reference books. Actually, that happens pretty frequently.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


I should probably append another recent conversation, this one at a used book sale:

YHB: Look, it’s a matched set of Dickens.

Best Reader: How many volumes?

YHB: …forty.

BR: How many of these books do you already own?

YHB: Well, most of them. All the ones I would want to reread.

Best Reader: If we buy these, will you get rid of all the copies you have now?

YHB: No.

Best Reader: …

YHB: I was just asking.

Best Reader: Thank you for asking.

That was different, of course.

Oh, you fortunate soul...

Woo OED!

That was remarkably inarticulate, given the subject matter, but I think it would sum up my feelings under similar circumstances.


By a massive coincidence, today while goofing off at work, I was reading the "Hitchiker's Guide", and ran across the bit where he talks about a University wanting to get a "Ultra-Complete Maximegalon Dictionary" off its hands, and thus regain some useful parking lots.

Working in a library does, indeed, rock.

I was once gifted with a copy of The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (the edition that precedes the New Grove, which is, itself, now superceded by the New New Grove...are you still with me?) by a band director, who wondered if I wanted it even though it was missing the first volume. (Which included B, not that there are any important composers whose names begin with B or anything.)

I happily accepted.

Quite a number of years later, I told this story to the head of the Music Library at UNC-Chapel Hill, who promptly walked me back to their holding tank for unprocessed gift books, snatched a first volume off the shelf, and gave it to me.

He tossed in a copy of the Liber Usualis as well; they had those coming out their proverbials.

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