Friday, August 13, 2010

Jones Library Drama Approaches its Climax: What outcome do you predict?

Rather than offering any commentary of my own as the Library crisis builds to its probable climax today, I thought I would instead simply share a little piece of print ephemera that I recently acquired. It's a vintage postcard of the Jones Library, which is attractive and interesting enough in its own right. What additionally intrigued me in this case, however, was the form. Originally, one put the message on the front of a postcard, for the law forbade any writing other than the address on the back.  In 1907, that changed, and people began to write on the cards in the manner familiar to us.  So-called "white border cards" flourished between 1915 and 1930. The current Jones building was opened in 1928. So, that all fits. But rather than providing a space for both the address and message on the back, this card puts the message area on the front, where the sender can check off one or more of a menu of message choices. 

The check-boxes intrigue me because they are the positive and civilian progeny of a military invention that Paul Fussell wrote about in his now-classic The Great War and Modern Memory.  The British "Field Service Post Card" (Form A. 2042), he says, "has the honor of being the first wide-spread exemplar of that kind of document which uniquely characterizes the modern world:  the 'Form.'  It is the progenitor of all modern forms on which you fill in things or cross out things or check off things."

The association of the normally placid Jones Library with bloody trench warfare, sadly, does not seem all that far-fetched these days.

Naturally, this got me to thinking:

If you were to send this card from the library now, which boxes would you check?
• Hot here?
• Do not expect to stay long?
• Will be here for some time?
• Will leave soon?
• Are all well?
• Don't worry?
• Congratulations?
Obviously, the precise answer would depend on just which role you were playing in the unfolding drama (though we all certainly could have used "The date has not been set" on several recent occasions, notably when the big meeting was postponed this week).

Or, if you were to design a new version of the card, what other message options would you include?  (haven't had time to create such an item myself).

Ultimately, then, it all boils down to:  What's your prediction?  Will the drama turn out to be a tragedy or a farce?

The meeting is scheduled for Friday (today), from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the large downstairs meeting room.

By the way, this happens to be Friday the 13th. Fortunately, I'm a rationalist and not a superstitious person, though I have a feeling the day will bring misfortune to one party or the other.  We all want what is best for the Library and the town as a whole, but so far, this controversy has been nothing but bad luck for all concerned.

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