While on lunch break at work (in our muggy and hot library, damn you, a/c), I was checking greader and discovered that Adam Yauch (of the Beastie Boys) had died. My first thought was about how shitty it is to die of cancer and how young he was (47). But my second thought, and the reason behind this post, was something along the lines of ‘oh, man, I get to do a display!’ Which makes me feel kind of gross, in a way, but it’s something I do often (displays when famous or relatively famous people die). For example, in the past month I did displays for Mike Wallace and Dick Clark.
What I can’t decide is if this is a kind of morbid thing to do (and if so, I’m totally blaming my undergrad Religious Studies professor who had a morbid sense of humor and taught our class about the end of the world — seriously) or if I just love putting up displays. I know what you’re thinking and I know this whole debate is ridiculous. But I have to confess to being a tiny bit excited when someone famous dies — because I can do a display. It’s not like I want them to die — but I sort of take advantage of it — though granted I’m doing it to get people to check out books/music/movies/etc.
And that brings me to the topic of displays. I don’t have any pictures handy, but usually my displays consist of a plastic stand with a flyer (8.5×11) that I made (usually color, but not always) and, in the case of a person’s death, biographical information from Biography In Context (which one of my libraries* subscribes to) as well as any obituary information I can print off the internet (usually from the New York Times and the Guardian). Alongside the papers and sign, there are books and media (in the case of Adam Yauch, our collection of Beastie Boy** cds is included, as well as a book on the Beastie Boys). For both Dick Clark and Mike Wallace, it was just books, biographical information and obits.
One of the reasons I love doing this is because I really love doing displays. I know a lot of people don’t understand what’s so great about them, but there’s something weirdly pleasing about researching a topic or a person and gathering a bunch of info. Maybe, at heart, I’m more of a research librarian, but working in a public library sometimes lets me do a little of both. Displays are satisfying to create, to see and curate. But what makes them even better is when the books get checked out (our Titanic display, complete with a poster of Leo & Kate and free gold 3D glasses (courtesy of the studio re-releasing of the film) was a huge hit). Of course, it’s even better when a staff member or a patron tells me how much they like my displays.
I guess what I’ve come to realize, while writing this entry (and thanks to an email from a good friend/librarian) is that it’s probably pretty normal and thoughtful. It’s less morbid than celebratory and in the end, isn’t that what this displays are about? And, hey, if it gets people to check shit out from the library, then that’s all the better.
As an aside, my other displays this month (so far!) are for the Kentucky Derby/Horse racing and National Bike Month. See what I mean? I’ll look for any reason to make a display. The more, the better and it seems to be a hit, too.
*I plan to refer to them as library #1 and library #2. Library #1 is located in an urbanish downtown location, along a bus route and within walking distance for many patrons. Library #2 is more rural, though in the same county, and almost all patrons drive to the library. #1 is much more liberal than #2 — but both libraries (as libraries are wont to do) have their own share of drama.
**I was really happy to see that library #1 had four Beastie Boys cds.