By the way: The librarian held up a book with a design of a naked woman's torso on the cover and she said, "Orgasmatron? What am I going to do with this?" That book was not in the "books on intimacy" books. For some reason, the twenty books with astral projection in the title all blend into one another. Orgasmatron, which was overlapping with Voltron is my lexical space, stood out. Google tells me that book was: "Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America" by Christopher Turner, which seems to be a biography of Wilhelm Reich, but puts itself forward as a history of "how the sexual revolution came to America." People who reviewed the book on Amazon gave it either fives stars or one. Loved it or hated it. Those who gave it one star generally argue the book egregiously misrepresents the Wilhelm Reich, who is apparently an Austrian Psychoanalyst (who I don't remember reading about in my clinical psychology graduate program) who went off the rails around sex and sexuality and was in some ways respected and in others written off as a crackpot or radical.
Weird, weird Maine connection? Reich died in 1957 and apparently (if Wikipedia is correct on this) is "at rest" on his his estate in dear old Rangeley, Maine. Yes, search for Orgonon. His estate maintains a museum of his work. And it is in Rangeley.
Back to shepherding books. It occurred to me while watching the librarian look through the books that she is performing a solemn duty on behalf of the departed person, or a really depressing one on behalf of the departed person's family who thought, "What the hell are we going to do with all these books?" I helped figure out what to do with my grandparents' book collection when they passed away. It was very interesting go through the books that they acquired over their lives and chose to keep, but despite an inclination toward sentimentality and being quite attached to my grandparents, I realized that my grandfather and I didn't have similar taste in reading material. Military books and westerns are not my thing.
Aren't books cool? They are artifacts and small time machines that take you somewhere while leaving you physically in the present.
I couldn't help wonder about the couple whose book collection we were looking at. What were they like? Then I wondered out loud whether these estate donations were a boon for the library or more of a burden. Getting rid of stuff can be logistically challenging and time consuming. Even if the books are worth money, you need to know where to find buyers, have room to store the books, and staff time to work through the books (unless someone will take the lot). Would these books be saved for the annual fundraiser book sale? Would they be combed through by a buyer who may purchase a few? My dad says there are many collectors of old bibles, and thanks to the internet collectors are easy to find. Would the books be donated elsewhere? Sold in the library fundraiser book sale? Disposed of? Made into a new form of art? Boxes upon boxes of books. Heavy boxes, that take up space?
I think all sorts of appreciative things about libraries, librarians and library staff, but until that conversation and looking over all those books, thinking about the people to whom they belonged, I hadn't realized what a strangely intimate responsibility librarians have when given an estate's collection of books. These books are the physical accumulation of a person's interests and the worlds they have immersed themselves in. They having writing in the margins and notes and random items pressed between the pages. Some have dedications in the front. And yet, that doesn't mean that loved ones or anyone else will value them as the owners did. Or maybe they will, but valued differently. Your adult grandchildren may end up thinking, "How many freaking novels did Zane Grey write? And why couldn't Granddad have loved scifi instead of western novels?"
This makes me wonder what our son will do with our book collection some day. At this point in our lives, we aren't endlessly moving and switching apartments, so our collection curation has changed in response to a greater capacity for books and no foreseeable need to box them up for moving day. While Potty! and Jamberry are some of our son's current favorites, we harbor fantasies that he might also love our books (which we refer to as his books.) What happens if he grows up and thinks, "Good grief parents! Enough science fiction and fantasy already. And what's with all the books and journals from the Peninsular campaign? Sharpe's this. Sharpe's that. Did you read anything besides Bernard Cornwell?!" Who knows. True Grit may be his gateway Western. He'll end up smitten with Louis L'Amour, and I will be wondering why I didn't hold on to Grandad's western novels. But surely he'll keep all the Terry Pratchett books, right?