It was a problem that had vexed every public librarian, for books are not like other library material. They need the freedom of shelves or they will mold and become brittle, but they also need to be kept together in order to be used easily by children. There were only two ways out: either shelve them all together, which meant putting popular titles on the top shelf where nobody could reach them; or if some were kept down below so that they would not get lost among the general run of adult books and thus might at least last through one reading before disintegrating entirely (as many did), then put all the others up high as well.
The result was that without exception, no matter how intelligent a child might otherwise have been, he would never read more than one book aloud from start to finish because when he came back for another book there would always be such a long climb ahead of him—a task beyond his endurance most likely—and it simply made no sense to try since there were plenty of good books right at hand anyway.
The first time I went into New York’s Children’s Room in 1934 I immediately saw what had happened; here were half-crippled copies of Scott’s Ivanhoe with nothing but shins showing above their ragged bindings; here too was an almost complete set by Walter de la Mare who is now extinct even from school libraries while Grimm’s Fairy Tales remained untouched on yet another shelf though these six volumes contained enough poetry and beautiful woodcuts alone to keep any youngster busy for hours each time he opened one up again! No wonder this room had become practically deserted over years after years until its sad state finally brought about drastic action. Anyone can see why it failed even before looking inside…
But let us go forward ten years instead: my second visit took place during World War II when we moved our family permanently into New Hampshire just outside Keene where we still live today although none has borne witness lately except possibly mice or field mice since I’ve taken care never knowingly to tell anyone exactly where we live lest unwanted guests come creeping around asking questions about my writing habits…So much gossip goes on in small towns! It takes brains sometimes just staying alive…especially under present conditions when everyone seems intent upon keeping tabs on everybody else with records similar to those kept by Nazi secret police under Hitler….
But as soon as peace comes again maybe folks will take better stock of real values and count less on trifles? Right now however we’re fighting a war on too many fronts, one of which is against prejudice and I don’t mean white or black.
However let’s go back to the library: here were all my books in their proper order—first editions included—and as for those by Walter de la Mare, I found not only his six volumes but also a seventh containing several additional poems plus a completely new book with colored illustrations from Sir John Millais himself! Now that was attention to detail indeed; you will find nothing like it nowadays even in the most prestigious libraries…but then these “old” books had come originally from private collections so they didn’t have to compete with newer publications when buying them for stock. And children, who are always more interested in pictures than anything else within reason (while adults often prefer recondite subjects over beautiful ones) enjoyed using this room every bit as much as if we’d been living back in some earlier century when people actually sat down and read aloud instead of rushing around looking busy because someone told them they should be doing something important just now…. Or maybe it was simply that all our troubles seemed farther away? But whatever the case may have been, there was no lack of interest here since nearly everything lay open and ready at hand while other things could be brought out upon request….
Such richness…such variety …so many treasures! Why blame your teacher if she doesn’t know how to use them? She probably has never seen any others except possibly copies bound with staples which makes me wonder why anyone bothers putting covers on such poor material anyway, but what really bugs me is why haven’t people long ago stopped buying such junk? It wouldn’t take much time or cost very much money either yet nobody seems inclined toward making improvements beyond those made by publishers themselves who do keep periodically issuing reprints better designed than ever before though still far below standards set up years ago by authors themselves or their own editors! How can anybody expect reading tastes to improve when publishers continue cutting corners year after year through ignorance or carelessness, thus flooding marketplaces already overflowing with poorly done trash instead of shielding readers from bad examples written without inspiration nor carefully prepared beforehand? There’s no excuse today for sloppiness so why indulge in it?!
The fact remains however that quality control must exist somewhere because otherwise neither present catalogues nor shelves would hold together although both look good enough on casual inspection. So where is quality assured before publication takes place and how does this happen exactly? Asking questions like these leads straight into a field of investigation which in itself is fascinating but, as usual, there’s very little available information on the subject.
I know that back in my own childhood days a special department had been set up within publishing houses to handle such matters and it was expected that each printing would meet high standards before being released for sale: however nowadays many companies have no separate department at all! So what can one expect from them besides quick returns on investment?
Apparently nothing much since most books are rushed out so fast these days that any author who tries to assist his editor by providing thorough research material will soon discover how little interest there is in quality writing today so long as profits continue pouring into coffers regardless…. A depressing realization certainly but not an altogether unexpected one either given present trends: how else can anyone explain why almost every library has failed to carry current issues of certain magazines though new ones keep coming off presses like clockwork year after year without fail or pause?
Not even those written for children perhaps because they’re still too young yet while their elders have already forgotten about other things…forgotten about dreams and hopes along with old ideals once held sacred years ago when life seemed simpler then…. But were we ever told truly enough just where we might find them again if we wanted them back?
The truth lies buried somewhere under layers of dust covering everything and everyone alike including me—the author who wrote this book you hold here—and now must leave standing open upon your desk beside others not needed until later …but wait!
There’s something missing; where did it go exactly? That part called Quality Control seems gone entirely from sight right now although, believe me, it doesn’t always remain hidden away never reaching public notice whatever its importance may be! Sure I’m biased because I’ve lived through some pretty difficult times myself trying to do two different kinds of work at once; nevertheless both jobs require equal attention otherwise the latter falls apart completely.
One problem comes from editors who seldom bother checking facts unless they happen onto something really funny or unusual while authors themselves prefer living inside their own imaginations instead—both equally dangerous: mistakes creep undetected into print despite best efforts made by meticulous proofreaders whereas more often than not imagination flies off track leaving lots behind which shouldn’t exist anywhere near finished text except perhaps inside writer’s head…a place sometimes referred to as “woolgathering”!
In between these two extremes stands Quality Control whose task should be similar whether applied toward editing or rewriting manuscripts prior publication