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07 December 2006

Backlists, Libraries, Old Inventory : What Did Archivists Forget?

Did you, used bookseller, ever answer the phone and hear a special plea from one new customer who MUST FIND those out-of-print books, documents and periodicals? Sometimes it is from an author-scholar writing a local history from a unique angle about local or regional culture.

That type of call, we all know, will set your mental wheels spinning and may preoccupy your mind while you browse your own boxes and shelves. The next time you are out 'shopping' the tag sales or offering an evaluation - (that euphemism for price bidding) on some estate's 'old books', that one phone call will stick in your mind and, if it touched a nerve, may very much influence what you buy and what you skip over.

This sort of phone call plus email came into the bookstore where I work. It concerned a history of Montreal poets (English-language poets to be a tiny bit more precise) that the caller is writing with a guarantee of publication. Ever since this initial contact, that exchange with a potential customer has preoccupied my thoughts and sent me even deeper into my never-ending research and physical searches for poetry periodicals, chapbooks, collections and even ephemera.

We will be blogging some of what shows up in the coming weeks. Please: if your own experience with selling books has sent you on either a profitable chase or simply another wild goose chase (upon receiving just one serious, potential customer call), if a request suddenly rekindled that flame for acquisition in a specific topic or genre, then please COMMENT upon your experiences on this blog. I promise to respond and try to relate to all comers.

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