Glimpse into the PastDeep in the bowels of the library are the remnants of a once vast collection of old magazines. One title we still own back to 1857, is The Atlantic Monthly.

Leafing through a 1945 volume provides a glimpse of what was on the minds of Americans. These issues were published when the outcome of World War II was still uncertain. The war permeates every part of the magazine – illustrations, articles, stories and advertisements. Articles include “France Without the Gestapo,” poems by “Sergeant” John Ciardi. Almost every product or service references the war or patriotism, including ATT &T, real estate ads, and of course war bonds.

Jumping back to 1875, a volume of the Atlantic Monthly included ten “Rules and Regulations Presented to the Davenport Library Association” directed to “members and ticket holders.” Patrons could check out one book at a time and keep it for two weeks. Fines were ten cents per week or “fraction of a week when the book is so retained.”

Rule #7 states that “persons entitled to draw books must not loan them outside of their immediate family. Any violation is…sufficient to forfeit their ticket.” (Sorry, Uncle Fred, you can’t look at the new Mark Twain bestseller I just checked out!)

Rule #8 warns that “books lost, defaced or injured while out…[will be] charged to the person whose ticket they were drawn.”  (Injured?)

And, lastly, “all books must be returned to the library on or before the 20th of April of each year; books not then returned will be charged to the holder.” There are intriguing stamps every few years from 1930 to 1988 in the front of these volumes. Are they dates of an inventory?

Such artifacts are fascinating time capsules of the eras – both of the wider world that Davenport was a part of,  as well as the nuts and bolts of the workaday life of the library.

 

Recently, I met best-selling author Brad Meltzer in a Chicago book store.  Naturally, I picked up an autographed copy of his newest novel, The Inner Circle.  (He had a large following — I had to wait in line a long time!)

The book revolves around Beecher White, a young archivist who loves his job at the National Archives.  When his childhood crush, Clementime, shows up seeking help in tracking down the father she never knew, he takes her on a private tour, and even shows her the secret vault used only by the  President.  Within moments ( is it by accident or plan?) they discover a priceless artifact hidden under the President’s chair.  Minutes later, the security guard who admitted them to the vault is found dead.  In hours,  Beecher is on the run, unsure who he can trust,  yet frantically trying to stay one-step ahead of his pursuers by successfully decoding concealed messages.

This is a fast-paced read and those interested in political conspiracies or action-packed thrillers will be entertained with all the unexpected twists and turns.  Initially, I wasn’t certain about the ending, but then it made more sense when I read that  Meltzer has a sequel planned, using  Beecher again as the primary character.  He is a rather lovable archivist, after all.

For those who may be further intrigued by the mysteries of symbols and codes, check out the author’s show on the History Channel, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.