Friday, March 28, 2008

Could This Be Why We Chase After The Shiny And New?

For the last year or so, I've felt that book people always seem to be chasing after the next thing. No sooner is everyone all excited about a new book then they've moved on to the next season's catalog. As soon as the Newbery winners are announced, I see groups start talking about next year's contenders. One of my listservs started talking about this fall's books last month. I guess this spring's books are already yesterday's news.

I've also heard from my local librarian that once books in libraries move off the "New Book" shelves they stop circulating. She says libraries with spacious "New Book" shelves will keep volumes out there for months--even longer--to give them as long a life as possible. The "No Longer New" books make their way to the stacks, but library patrons don't follow them.

I was in a library yesterday doing research so I could update the What's Hannah Been Reading? page at The Hannah and Brandon Stories site. By research, I mean I was actually going through the catalog looking for, say, vampire books, taking down author names and titles, and hunting for them. That meant that I was in the stacks. I was wandering up and down in the aisles, feeling badly for all the books sitting on the shelves and not seeing much action.

I realized, though, that I'm as guilty as anyone of heading to the "New Book Shelf" first thing. And I realized that I do it because that's where I'll find books I've read about recently in reviews or blogs. That's where I'll find titles that I recognize because I've just heard about them.

There are thousands of books in the library. Tens of thousands. That's an overwhelming number, at least for me. The number of books on the "New Book Shelf" is far more manageable. I can look at far more of them. So can all the other library patrons who cluster there.

I'm guessing the same is true for followers of each season's new offerings. There are hundreds of thousands of books out in the world, hoping for attention. Who can begin to deal with that much reading? But maybe we can kid ourselves that we can get a handle on this season's books. Or next season's. Because a season's worth of books isn't that many, comparatively. And when the season's over, we can throw in the towel and move on, hoping that maybe next season we'll do all the reading we need to do.

Yeah, like that's going to happen.