AUT in the Coffman Library

By Joanne Kendall

Originally published in the January 2019 issue of the 1666 Coffman Newsletter

What’s the deal with the headline above? Should it read “OUGHT”? Or even “AUGHT”? Actually, neither works in this context. In 2017, 1666 Coffman Newsletter contributor Fred Gaiser ended one of his writings, about being a library user, with the comment that he occasionally found “altogether unexpected treasures” (AUT) on the 1666 library shelves.

As a longtime member of the library committee, I had the privilege, assigned on a weekly basis, of shelving books returned to the library’s blue box by borrowers. Thanks to that volunteer task, my first reaction to Fred’s words was strong objection to his use of the word “occasionally.” When I did that weekly shelving, I seldom left the library without signing out a book I found intriguing. And almost every one proved to be an altogether unexpected treasure!

Promised a writing assignment for this issue by Katie Weiblen, library committee cochair, I was questioned about the propriety of writing as a past resident. The question was settled by giving me the title “foreign correspondent.” For me, that had the ring of extraordinary freedom to write at length and ramble around the library collecting some of those AUT titles that had provided me with so much good reading for so many years, all twenty-one of them!

So in the next few months when lack of sunshine (a given this winter), extreme cold and/or the return of ice and snow give Minnesotans expendable time, Coffman residents can prepare ahead with a list of reading suggestions gleaned as you wander with me from top to bottom floors of the Coffman library collection, while I point out a few of the AUTs that may have been buried treasure to you until now.

On the building’s third level, top floor of the library, Sections I – XIV, notice Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle (sociology); The Measure of My Days by Florida Scott-Maxwell (aging); In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen (Native American writing), and two books by Reynolds Price (essays). As you turn the corner, try to bypass the several sections of mystery, spy, adventure books, or you may be hooked and go no further. Old favorite writers and a host of new ones abound!

Books in the travel writings and travel guides sections are guaranteed to take you away from winter. You will find Minnesotan Bill Holm’s Coming Home Crazy addictive in its hilarious descriptions of that red-headed/red-bearded “giant” and his experiences as a teacher in China.

If you’re feeling rebellious at having anyone tell you what to read, the visual beauty of almost any book in art and architecture sections allows you simply to enjoy looking at the illustrations. An altogether unexpected treasure in the writing section is Brisbanes’s A Gentle Madness, a book I “bought” off the book sale cart and, after reading it, recommended that it be returned to the library collection. It’s that fascinating!

Cabin fever victims should not ignore the library sections on mythology, sacred texts and writings on sacred texts; cookbooks, golf, and games; and should certainly include browsing among the books by 1666 authors. If you don’t already know M. D. Lake’s mysteries, now is the time to discover the reading excitement waiting in their pages for any would-be sleuth. Then, be sure to ask a longtime resident about the mystery surrounding the writer’s name!

Move with me now down the circular stairway to the library’s first floor. (I’ve taken a more cautious approach for several years via the elevator). Fiction books occupy sections II through VII and attract the most borrowers.

In addition to single books, two series here have provided me with countless hours of fascinating reading in recent years: The Century Trilogy of Ken Follett and Patrick O’Brian’s seven-volume (of twenty published) fictional accounts of the history of sea warfare beginning with Master and Commander.

Sections I and II hold books on drama, theater, books for teens and children (to re-read any Winnie the Pooh book by A.A. Milne is an AUT whenever I pick it up!). From Section VII on, any listing of additional AUT titles will most certainly be chopped off by the newsletter editor’s computer clicks. I’ll only say that history fans and readers of biography who browse in those sections are sure to discover altogether unexpected treasures waiting for them.

We can all hope against a prolonged period of cabin fever as 2019 begins. Should that happen, however, the library provides additional hope. Collectors of minutiae and 1666 wordsmiths may still discover AUTs in dictionary, reference, and encyclopedia sections of north-facing shelves on both levels of the library.

At this endpoint, newsletter readers should have noticed that not all the library’s labeled sections (nor specific books in each) have been noted here. It is this writer’s hope that others may want a piece of this action, writing about the “Altogether Unexpected Treasures” they, too, would like to reveal to library users and to those who have so far been doubtful guests to the library. Who will be next to join in hunting for and writing about AUT in the Coffman library?


*As I finished taking notes for this article, I was lured once more by the book sale cart and bought for $1 The Angel on the Roof: Stories by Russell Banks. I can’t leave his writing alone…another AUT providing hours of reading delight!

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