Do you sometimes feel like a slippery letter S
as you sleepily slump down onto a city bus stop bench? If so, I've got just the sign for you. It reads: "BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER S THAT MAY NEED TO USE THE BENCH." That fourth word was obviously supposed to be others
, but something about it looked a little off to me; there seemed to be a tad too much space between the R
and the S
. On closer inspection, I saw that the word had originally been rendered as OTHER'S; apparently someone had simply filled in the recessed apostrophe area with some blue ink from a pen. Replacing poorly designed signage is not a thing the State of New York can really afford to do right now and the budget crisis at the State Library is probably among the worst of all its agencies. But as we were told at a staff meeting earlier that day (after also being informed that we need to somehow cut $2 million from our budget), this is nothing new. Melvil Dewey, who was NYSL's first library director, once wrote a letter to a local physician, begging him for donations and citing our fiscal woes. This was a little over a century ago. "Dear Dr. Ward," he wrote, "You have kindly given the state library five journals at the end of each year. You know how badly the legislature has crippled this library and how anxious I have been to get it on its feet. I hammer at them in each report for their failure to do what was agreed. Please tell me what you think about these five journals. If we could save the copies we are now paying for we could put the total amount into other books or journals for which we now have no money, but this plan would keep these off our shelves till you send them in at the end of the year. Possibly you might feel like sending them in quarterly and so release just so much money for other books or serials. I am anxious to do what will please the physicians best and no one can judge better than yourself. Yours truly, Melvil Dewey." I hope the good doctor was considerate
enough to cooperate with Mr. Dewey. It takes a village of OTHERS to raise a library. Cosiderat*
turns up 15 times in OhioLINK today, and 119 times in WorldCat.
(Photo of ill-considered sign outside the New York State Library. Click to enlarge.)
Perhaps someday you might take up the other grammatical sin manifested by this sign: i.e., "others who," not "others that"! Or perhaps "Librarians' Room," rather than "Librarians Room." I was on staff at NYSL when that particular gem was created, and protested vigorously to the individual responsible, but he felt it wasn't important.
I enjoy these pieces a great deal, having been alerted to the blog when my friend's predicament with a children's book became a topic! Thanks for all your thoughful erudition!
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