Reading The Shelves

The Willapa Country — 4th from rt.

Nyel is good at it.  I’m not.  It probably hearkens back to the years that he worked in the library at the University of Washington — in the sixties when he was working on his undergraduate degree.  Reading the shelves is a skill necessary to library and bookstore workers — especially when there are “open stacks” where patrons and customers can browse at will.  No matter how careful folks are, there is plenty of room for a mis-shelved book and you know the old library expression — a misplaced book is a lost book.

In our personal, four-generational library , the story is  the same.  Or worse.  For one thing, we don’t have a card catalog or inventory of the books in this house.  I don’t even have an idea of how many there are.  Three thousand?  Four thousand?  More?  Of the 12 (or 14, depending upon how you count) rooms in the house, 6 contain serious book shelves and 3 others have books tucked in the nooks and crannies.  When I’m looking for a specific title or author, I call on Nyel.  Even from his wheelchair, he can manage far better than I.

East Room- SW Corner

But just happening upon a book is another matter. As in, I didn’t know I was looking for The Willapa Country: History Report until I ran cross it this very morning on a shelf in our East Room.  It looks to be brand new, never opened.  Yet it was published by the Raymond Herald & Advertiser, Raymond, Wa in 1965!  Has it been in this house all those years?  Why did it just hop out at me now?

I’m so happy to make its acquaintence, though, despite the timing.  I could have used it bigtime when researching the article I turned in to the Observer  just a few days ago — the second one in my “Doctoring in Early Pacific County” series.  In this compact little book is fantastic historic information about the medical communities in the Raymond Valley, Tokeland, and Brooklyn areas — places for which even minimal information was hard to come by.

I was relieved, however, to find (after a quick perusal) that the information I did come up with was accurate and representational.  Yay!  But you can bet that the fabulous facts, figures, and statistics about all manner of North County history contained in this tidy little book, edited by Virginia “Ginny” Olsen (1913-1981) will show up in future articles.  It is a treasure trove and, even more interestingly, was updated and corrected  by Virginia, herself, ten years after it was published.  Those corrections were published in the Spring 1981 issue of the Sou’wester magazine.  I can scarcely believe that the original book has been right on our bookshelves all this time!

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