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So Many Islands in the Sea of Stories

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So Many Islands book cover.
      Photo credit: K.F. Shovlin

“So Many Islands: Stories from the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans” is a collection of stories from the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It was edited by Nicolas Laughlin with Nailah Folami Imoja with an introduction by Marlon James, winner of the Man Booker Prize. It was published in 2018 by Peekash Press under agreement with Telegram and the copyright is held by the Commonwealth Foundation. It is distributed in North America by Akashic Books.

Peekash is based in Casade, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Telegram in London, UK, and Akashic in Brooklyn, NY, USA, making the production of the book alone the work of so many islands. It is through the distribution agreement with Akashic that So Many Islands finds its way to Washington, DC, to become part of the collection of the Library of Congress. Under U.S. Copyright Law, two copies of each book published in the U.S. must be sent to the Copyright Office for registration. Those copies are then passed on to the Library, of which the Copyright Office is a part.

Seventeen authors contributed stories to this collection, weaving together a loose narrative of island life the world over. Those stories then moved, island to island, digitally and physically, before coming to the Library of Congress, itself a seeming island surrounded by the vestiges of government and the living, breathing city and its residents.

It arrived at the ALAWE section of Acquisition and Bibliographic Access in February 2019 and was processed during that year. Once selected for inclusion, the full digital record was created, with the Library control number and the Call number appended. In February 2020, it was sent to be hardbound for long-term preservation. Already a year into its journey at the Library, “So Many Islands” found itself stuck, packed in a security truck with over two hundred other tales waiting out the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in 2021, with Library staff having returned to shortened schedules and social distancing, “So Many Islands” was freed from its cage and sorted by staff of the recently redubbed Processing and Preparation Section. Despite the many contributors and depth of their stories, the page count is 173 and the spine less than ½ an inch, causing it to be designated a UB style. U is for unlettered and B for the binding style of the original book, in this case double-fan adhesive, also known as “perfect bound.” With such a thin spine, even with the thicker binding, the title and call number would be too large, so it is unlettered. Only the call number will adorn the buckram binding.

From then it is taken with care by a binding technician and processed. The relevant information is checked between the physical book and the digital record, and a binding slip is created through the Automated Bindery Library Exchange (ABLE). “So Many Islands” and 299 others of its lot are then packed in grey plastic bins, which are tied to plastic packing skids, and safely and securely transported via truck to the HF Group commercial bindery in Indiana. Over the course of the next month, “So Many Islands” and it’s fellow collections of paper and ink will be cut, glued, and pressed until the final product is completed, labeled, and reviewed. Now clad in a ruby buckram and cardboard shell, the collection of stories is buttressed against the ravages of time.

Back into the grey bins, the now protected collection returns back to Washington, DC. So Many Islands and its brethren are unpacked and placed back onto a wooden book truck. It is counted and scanned and tested. One of the same staff that processed it a month before now reviews the finished product, ensuring its durability and accuracy. The collection has been assigned to the General Collection of the Library of Congress, home of over 37 million books and housed largely in the grand and imposing Thomas Jefferson Building across from the U.S. Capitol.

It leaves the Processing and Preparation Section to move within the tunnels and halls of the Library before finding its place on the shelf. There it will remain, ever the ready for call to service. The collective work of those eighteen authors, editors, and publishing staff have now been protected by the catalogers, binding technicians, and deck attendants of the world’s largest library. Here now, “So Many Islands” can join so many stories, waiting for you to call.


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