Oldies but Goodies

Part 1 — Classics

By: Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

1984 covers 4I’m what you might call an old-school librarian. When I was growing up, my dad always encouraged me to read “important” books that would stand the test of time. Through my work as a Collection Development Librarian at Brodart, I often notice older titles that are still in demand at libraries across the country. Some of these titles are the kind of books they made you read in high school; the kind some libraries include in special groupings of “classics.”

What makes a “classic” a classic? There are as many answers to that question as there are readers. The simplest is probably one of the standard definitions of art: “I know it when I see it.” I’d say classics are often characterized by exceptional writing and universal themes. To illustrate, let’s look at two books, named below. Published in 1949, George Orwell’s “1984” has been described as a cautionary tale, a book that had to be written so that the things depicted in it would never come to pass. The book’s one-word title has been used endlessly to protest against many real and perceived wrongdoings. What’s the universal theme? I’m going to state it simply: “People want to be free.” Take another example: over the course of seven books and thousands of pages, what do we learn from Harry Potter? Love is stronger than hate. The message is timeless, straightforward—pretty simple stuff.

1984-HM-2Many classics have particular relevance to current events, like the recent interest in “1984.” I’ll let people draw their own conclusions as to how. This is a newly released edition, and the list price is, oddly enough, $19.84–ha!

1984     L H     Orwell, George Hardcover            9781328869333    
Fiction      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt                 04/04/2017



Sometimes an interesting older title will be released in honor of an anniversary. It’s hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book is right around the corner. You can read about the new editions here:


Click above for article

Here’s one more great title of interest: “Millions of Cats,” by Wanda Gag. This picture book, written in 1928, is believed to be the oldest American picture book that’s still in print. It was a Newbery Honor Award winner in 1929. A bit of Brodart trivia about this title: It is the oldest title in Bibz with “hot” demand.


Click above for video

“Cats here, cats there, Cats and kittens everywhere. Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, Millions and billions and trillions of cats…”

Just for fun, you may want to watch this video of the book being read aloud, story time-style:



What are some older favorites at your library? Let us know! I’ll tell you about more of mine soon.

If you are a trendier librarian, or serve patrons who fit that description, keep an eye out for the upcoming post by my better half, Brodart librarian Fern Hallman, about the newest trends in “hipster” publishing. Stay tuned!

Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.

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