1. Who are the Back Alley Librarians? We are a group that meets infrequently and at irregular intervals in Ann Arbor to discuss (more or less) books and ephemera as material objects. Or, in the words of our founding member and animating spirit B. Tozier,
Our goal is the affable consideration of what the heck makes books and smalls and ephemera and material culture and old signifying things of interest: not necessarily the objects, the fineness or oldness, not even necessarily the contents, but that ineffable whatever-it-is that makes one want to know more about the why-story of the thing. We won’t do organized speeches or anything so direct; we just chat and point and repeatedly say, “You know, that reminds me of something.”
2. Do you have to be a librarian to join in? No, you do not. We welcome all fellow travelers in Buchwissenschaft regardless of their diplomatic portfolio. The name “Back Alley Librarians” was thrown out as a descriptive term for our group in a moment of heedless jest and, for want of a better, seems to have stuck.
3. Do you meet in a back alley? Again, as with most esoteric pursuits, we should be understood to be speaking allegorically. Often we meet at Workantile, a co-working space in downtown Ann Arbor. For our next meeting (Sept. 22, 2012, 7pm) we will be meeting at Garrett Scott, Bookseller.
4. What might I see at one of these meetings? You will see some smart and genial people. You will see a small sideboard bearing up a selection of snacks and beverages. You may see extracted leaves from an atlas of the Holy Land. You might see a handy 19th century advertising pamphlet for voltaic suspensory belts designed to alleviate male debility. Perhaps you will see a series of picture postcards from 1907 that were intended to be sold for the support of a man with a broken neck. Maybe you will see a book entitled Ptomaine: The Story of Food Poisoning, or a series of woodblock matrices depicting such wonders as communal parlors for the distribution of nutritive gases. Maybe you will bring something over which we might all exclaim in awe and wonder.
5. Should I let somebody know I plan to attend one of these meet-ups? If you’re not already on the Back Alley Librarian email list and haven’t yet sent a note to Tozier, please send a note to garrett [at] bibliophagist [dot] com and let Garrett know you plan to attend. We would also be happy to add you to our mailing list. Or you can just show up.
6. Where is Garrett Scott, Bookseller, located? In the rear of 1924 Packard, Ann Arbor (between Coler and Jorn) about three blocks south of Stadium Blvd. We are behind Morgan & York, Cake Nouveau, and Oz’s Music. Here’s a map. Park in back and look for the friendly steel door. If the night is chilly you might want to bring a sweater–the shop in previous incarnations served as a garage, as an empty bottle warehouse, and as a distribution point for a covert organization of raw milk commandos. Insulation has never been our overriding concern.
7. Morgan & York? Don’t you mean the old Big 10 Party Store? Yes, fine, you are a hard core old-time townie. We look forward to seeing you in any event.
8. What should I do if you didn’t answer my frequently-asked question? Feel free to shoot a note to Garrett Scott (garrett [at] bibliophagist [dot] com) or give the shop a call, (734) 741-8605.