A library’s collection is a narrative. Each book was acquired because someone, either a librarian or patron, believed it to be important and valuable in some way. For example: the library has about 30 books on Woodrow Wilson, only 12 books on Franklin D. Roosevelt, and 8 books about William Taft. William Taft served only one presidential term whereas Wilson served two, but FDR served four presidential terms and spearheaded the New Deal.
Did the librarians feel that Wilson was much more important than FDR or Taft? Did the librarians of the time dislike FDR? WHO made these decisions and WHY?
Staying in the biography room at the Institute Library, but moving away from the U.S. presidents – I continued perusing the shelves to discover more of the library’s mysteries (I might have shown up an hour early to work so I could meander through the stacks…..) I found two titles that I felt I NEEDED to figure out some sort of narrative as to why they are on the shelves.
1. Desperate women by James D. Horan, published 1952
2. The nympho and other maniacs : The lives, the loves and the sexual adventures of some scandalous and liberated ladies by Irving Wallace, published 1971
Why did someone feel that these two books were important enough to purchase for the Institute Library and WHO was this person? I must also note, that the nympho book is on the shelf right next to The world’s wickedest women by Andrew Ewart, published in 1965 – which means (according to the William Borden Classification system – these two books were purchased about the same time). There is SOME sort of narrative here – how to interpret it, I’m not entirely certain.
3rd paragraph of the forward:
“They all possessed a cold courage whether they were using their sex to steal military secrets or holding up a stage coach. Their appetite for life, action, and excitement was insatiable. They committed espionage as coolly as they sipped their tea, seduced men in high places for their country and their causes; held their liquor, rode like Comanches, dealt stud poker, packed guns, rustled cattle, and played road agent with great efficiency and picturesqueness.” (Horan vii)
The title The nympho and other maniacs at least provides the feel of a history of empowered women, unlike Desperate women. The titles of the sections are amazing: “Book I : The mistress as a scandal,” “Book II : The heroine as a scandal,” and “Book III : The rebel as a scandal.”
The actual content of these books (unlike the titles) gives me a better understand as to possible reasons why they were acquired – it was during a time when women were fighting for equal rights in the workforce.
Another one of the investigated yet unanswered mysteries of the Institute Library.