Monday, July 26, 2004

Book Art 

The other day a patron, an elegant matron in her early sixties, came in and handed me a book. She was holding it along the edges with her fingers like it was a dead rat she had by the tail, and with a withering look of distaste said,

"This book should be withdrawn, for reasons that will become abundantly clear after you open it."

I suspected that someone had decorated the book with the usual graffiti: profanity, lewd pictures or racial epithets. I began to flip through the pages to try to find what she had found so offensive. The book seemed absolutely pristine until I arrived at the blank pages at the end of the book (called 'the stack,' FYI). These pages were no longer blank, because someone had used each one as a fingerpainting canvas. I would have found the art rather impressive - it looked like a fine example of abstract expressionism along the lines of Jackson Pollack - except that the 'paint' used was unmistakably blood which by now had dried to a dark rust colored crust.

I'm still kind of a greenhorn so I was a loss as to what to do. I considered dropping it in plastic biohazard waste disposal container we have for the occasional syringe we come across. The blood was dried so it was likely no longer a contaminant harboring live pathogens, so in the end I just put a note on it, wrapped it in a plastic bag and sent it back to the Main because they owned it and should decide how to deal with it.

I hope the patron finds a more socially acceptable, less nauseating way to express himself artistically. I also pray that this defacer doesn't become a serial vandal, like the homophobic man who made it his life mission to remove the word gay out of every single book owned by the library in another system. He would bowdlerize the word ‘gay’ with a pen knife out of each book even when the word was not used in a homosexual context, like in the case of the bomber Enola Gay. And boy did he have it out for author Gay Talese! He was finally apprehended, but not before causing thousands of thousands of dollars in damages.

Just for future reference (hah! reference, geddit? GEDDIT?!), ALL blood/body fluids should be treated as hazardous, regardless of how wet/dry they are.
Hepatitis remains live in dried blood for up to 3 weeks, IIRC.
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