or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Where The Naked People Are

   July 5th, 2007

Unshelved comicI love it when completely unconnected things converge to create a complimentary coincidence. Conspiracy? Come on...

Today's confluence involves the Unshelved comic from 6/29/07 (click the image to read the entire strip), and the book I'm currently reading, Sewer, Gas & Electric, by Matt Ruff.

The quote below, like previous quotes, concerns libraries, but unlike them, is a bit lengthy (but it's worth it):

...Maxwell had also found a vocation of sorts, unpaid but satisfying, even addicting.

He moved library books.

"You ever notice how you can't find any naked pictures in a library?" Maxwell would sometimes say to strangers on the subway, by way of explanation. "What I mean is, you're a kid, your voice changes, and one day you start and wonder if you could find a book with naked pictures at the public library. Like, could they have bought one by mistake, put it on the shelf where even a kid could get at it. So you look up subjects like 'Erotica' and 'Nude Photography' in the catalog, and it turns out they have some hot-sounding titles, like An Illustrated History of Pornographic Films. But when you check for the call numbers on the shelf, those kinds of books are never in. Hell, you might find one that's all text, in French, but if it's a book with actual naked pictures, it won't be there. Even if the catalog says it's on the shelf, it wont' be there. Even if you come back and check every day for a month - when you voice changes, you do that kind of thing - it'll never be there. Like it's been removed. Surgically.

"Well, you know, I figured out why that is, not just at one library but at any library you go to. ...it just hit me: there's a conspiracy. Guys all over the country, a secret brotherhood. They come into every library first thing in the morning, and they grab all the books with naked pictures before anybody else can get to them. They don't take them out, and they don't steal them or burn then, they just refile them. They put the books with naked pictures in boring parts of the library, stick 'em in between the books that nobody ever reads. Then, later, when the kids whose voices are changing come in, the members of the brotherhood just stand back and laugh up their sleeve. It's a very important job."

That is, of course, unless you happen to be browsing the reference collection in the Muskingham Muskingum College Library.

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4 Responses to “Where The Naked People Are”

  1. Kate Says:

    Thanks for linking to me. 🙂 I’m glad my reference collection has such power to amuse. We find so many bizarre items in it. Sadly, none are as exciting as that one book.

    Btw, it’s Muskingum. I’m not quite sure why everyone spells it wrong but you are definitely not the first. 🙂

    Also, congrats on your top Google result showing! Nice!

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    You know how people say that pet owners and their pets grow to resemble each other over time? I wonder if that’s true of librarians and their library’s collection. So, Kate, what else has your library got tucked away that might be indicative of you? Hmm…

    By the way, thanks for the spelling correction – sorry about that. I guess I spent too much time working on my search engine ranking and not enough time on my fact-checking.

  3. Kate Says:

    Well, here’s a list of books we’ve recently deleted. You tell me if they are indicative me. 🙂

    1. So many Greek-English lexicons of the New and Old Testament that I could make an excellent bonfire.
    2. A book entitled “opportunities in music careers” from 1966.
    3. A “Cyclopedia of Education” from.. well, a long time ago. (reading that title always jumps my brain into the word “cyclops” which makes for entertaining mental images)
    4. You know, I better just end this list. I just don’t have any good ones this time around. Unless you want to go check how your Nasdaq stocks were doing a few decades ago….

    I think you’ll find that my cat, Jez, and I are growing to resemble each other far more than my library’s reference book collection will ever resemble me. She’s such a sneaky little loafer who becomes Demon Kitty at night when I’m trying to go to sleep because I have to get up at 6am. Ricocheting around the apartment, including on and off the bed, is not conducive to sleep. Why are cats nocturnal?

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    That’s funny… when I describe you to people, I almost always say “you know, my friend Kate, the one-eyed bilingual folk singer-turned-day trader.” But the books you’re getting rid of don’t count; only those you buy. And as for Jez, I think the real question is this: what aren’t you nocturnal?