This is a page from my notebook that I carry around in my purse. The numbers look so mysterious, don't they?
If I were the victim in a police procedural drama (God forbid), I hope the detectives who find these numbers on my person would not spend too much time on it because it would turn out to be a red herring. No, these numbers do not correspond to contacts and paymasters in an espionage ring. Nor are the numbers dates, locations and casualties of past and future disasters. These numbers will not lead them through a high-speed chase through the capitals of Europe and the Middle East in search of The Holy Grail. (So the cops can rule out an assassination backed by the Vatican.) Did I become a bookie and are each set of numbers a person who owes me money and I just got "mixed up with the wrong kind of people"? Bernie Madoff's Swiss/Cayman Island bank account numbers? The by-product of late onset schizophrenia?
The truth can be so prosaic.
These numbers are International Standard Book Numbers -- ISBNs. Starting in February this year I embarked a de-accessioning program with my personal library. I wanted to find good homes for my books so I started listing them on Amazon.com. My problem was, and is, that I have a 10-year-old Mac at home and it takes several hours to upload 20 ISBNs. So I decided to write down the ISBNs of the books I wanted to sell and upload them on my computer in my studio where uploading 75 books can take as little as 15 minutes to do.
I'm not getting rid of my entire library, just paring down. I want the books in my personal library to be there not just because of content but also as an artifact. I think I'm done buying paperbacks. I am hanging on to my art/photo books. As well as reference books. In the meantime, I have been patronizing the Boston Public Library which is a civic treasure. I look up what book I want on their database, request it online and then they send me an email letting me know that my book is waiting for pick-up at the Copley Branch.
(Boston Public Library Inner Courtyard. January of 2008)
In case you were wondering, the letters next to numbers are a personal code that I am happy to share with you:
ULN - Used Like New
VG- Very Good
G - Good
PY - Pages Yellowing (due to age)
WOC - (Some) Wear on Cover
These are shorthand notes to myself regarding the condition of each book. I try to give an accurate description of each book to avoid unpleasant surprises for the buyer later on. Managing expectations, after all, is key to good customer service.