BYU Special Collections

Three librarians, a cartoonist, and a blogger walk into a restaurant.

The cartoonist defaced the menus, the blogger tweeted about it, and then the first librarian cataloged the menu, the second cataloged the tweet, and the third librarian bemoaned the fact that the cartoonist didn't pick up the check and thus leave behind a signed slip with a date on it that could be cataloged as evidence.

No, that's not a thing that actually happened, but Sandra and I did have lunch on Wednesday with three librarians from Brigham Young University's Special Collections. 

Here's an amusing thing that did actually happen. All three of them made genuinely horrified faces when I told them about how sometimes I'll get a strip all penciled, and then hate it, and then (and I pantomimed this part) crumple it up and throw it away.

Okay, it was amusing to ME. And I didn't even need to tell them about how, if I'm feeling really grumpy, I'll spill my drink into the wastebasket just to be sure.

You see, in recent years they've taken to collecting early art and all kinds of other records from alumni artist types, and they seem to live in fear that with every passing moment somebody somewhere is throwing something away.

Am I exaggerating? Maaaaaybe.

After lunch they took Sandra and I on a tour of the Special Collections area. It had some things I expected it to have, like first printings of The Book of Mormon, and original letters written by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It also had some things I didn't expect it to have, like a first printing of Jane Austen's Emma (which Sandra and I got to hold with our bare hands, a fact that made our good friend Mary Robinette Kowal whimper publicly.)

But beyond the unexpected, Special Collections also had some amazingly cool things, like a 19th-century pioneer journal which, after spending a hundred years half-buried in a grain silo being chewed on by rats, was rescued by a conservator who cleaned it up, and then layered each individual page between sheets of Mylar

And absolutely beyond the pale on the amaze-o-meter, they want my stuff. Those strips we've been selling you? Yeah, the librarians were a little sad to see those go to private collectors who don't have conservators armed with Mylar. But I cheered them right up when I told them that I still have plenty of the earliest originals, including a couple of unpublished versions of early strips which I hand-lettered, and which nobody but Sandra and I have ever seen.

Honestly, the very most amazing thing they had was their shelving. There isn't room down there for every shelf to have its own aisle, so the shelves move. Deep beneath the polished concrete floor, a whisper-quiet motor slides multiple tons of books and shelves--sometimes moving several shelves at once--in order to create an aisle for access. And if the sensors between the shelves fail, those moving shelves can totally kill a librarian dead, and simultaneously stain a lot of books. 

(No librarians have died down there yet, but several kick-stools have been sacrificed in the name of library science.)

I won't lie. It feels kind of weird. In some distant future there may be boxes of my stuff awaiting discovery by a collection-delving, thesis-writing grad student who will, I'm sure, lose weeks of productivity to the Schlock Mercenary archives in order to figure out why these horribly-rendered pictures of talking poo are being kept in this box. And if he's not careful, and if the sensors aren't working, he will be crushed to paste in his quest for the deeply esoteric, at which point, though long dead, I WILL HAVE OUTLIVED HIM.

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