Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fellowship of the bookcases

SIX of us gathered around a couple of tables.

Meet our fellowship. Cheking is the preternatural idealist. Farseeing, he is donating journalism books to the Cebu City Public Library (CCPL).

Three of us teach. I assume the others presume teachers know libraries the way priests in confessionals are intimate with every bared soul’s warp and stain.

Newsroom colleagues, Kent is yang to Cherry’s yin. In the duality of interconnectedness, yang is light. Kent will design the shelves to hold the books after the fellowship makes up its mind.

Until this miracle comes about, it is Cherry’s task to guide us out of the dark of confusion. In another life before editing, Cherry must have been a wartime general.

Stratagems should be Cherry Ann’s third name. Her three-page email summarizing shelving options for the Cebu Journalism and Journalists (CJJ) Books Project shames my skills in planning, writing, and housekeeping:

“The distance of the short beige cabinets from the tall gray cabinet on the left is 17 inches, and from the brown wooden cabinet on the right is 10-1/4 inches. This means if we put short cabinets that are wider than the cabinets now sitting there, these short cabinets may occupy a total width of up to 100 inches only.”

Other members in the fellowship include CCPL librarian Mrs. Rosario Chua. According to Cherry’s lean, no-word-no-nail-wasted Mar. 18 report, Mrs. Chua “nixed” the idea of purchasing bookcases with glass doors.

Open cabinets expose the books to air, she advised. Don’t let molds move in.

I have donated books to libraries and not once have I thought of the space that will hold them. A sentimentalist, I imagined the books would fly off the shelves and become bedtime companions or storytime staples.

So this old heart skipped several beats when I read Cherry’s report and saw the pictures of the library “abandoned” when the SunStar editorial team moved offices.

I remember when editors grudgingly walked away from their monitors to open and pore over the library’s dictionaries and maps. Dust made one editor sneeze her head off; she checked anyway.

Will journalists in the future ask a librarian for vertical files? Will a librarian still be around to be asked?

Like a good general who discards sentiment for tactics, Cherry suggested recycling the cabinets, for which she had to “step over some dead roaches” to measure.

As of this writing, our fellowship is mulling how to classify the books.

In an age when a smartphone holds hundreds of titles and scanning has displaced reading, this odd company heeds an ancient nesting instinct to provide for arguably the best human invention: books.

( 09173226131)

*First published in SunStar Cebu’s March 26, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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