Book Room Manager
503-224-9176 | Email Angelita
Photo: Jayson Colomby
Angie was invited into the book room by former board member Greg Simon four years ago and was hooked immediately. She divides her work time between the book room and her painting studio.
She frequents her neighborhood Belmont branch, borrowing art, gardening and travel books. She lives with her supportive husband and their amiable big black dog. She enjoys escapes to the woods, the beach and visits to galleries and museums. She also likes hiking, gardening and studying Italian, hoping to return to Italy for more practice.
Interview with Angelita Surman
How do your two occupations, Book Room manager and artist, intersect?
Working in the Book Room affords many opportunities for me to view the work of other artists through book illustrations and the chance to find artists that are new to me. It is also a surprising source of inspiration, in that I find information on a wealth of topics I never would have sought out on my own.
I have found antiquated books on tree identification, anatomy studies, maps, and physical education, among other intriguing subjects. There are also amazingly inventive book constructions that are an art form in themselves.
What’s a typical day like in the Book Room? What is your system for organizing and sorting all the items that come through?
When we arrive, most of our donations have been brought to the Book Room by the Multnomah County Library staff. We are very grateful for their help in picking up donations from all the branches and delivering them to us. Shannon Brown (Book Room Assistant) and I also bring down additional materials from the loading dock.
The first step is to presort the materials and look for items that might be out of date, excessively underlined, dirty, or smelly. Every item is given hands-on attention. Audio-visual materials and cookbooks are set aside for pricing and packing in a separate area. The remainder is placed in crates for volunteers to shelve according to subject category.
When there are sufficient numbers of books or other items on a shelf, they are priced and boxed for the sales.
What is the biggest category of books you receive?
I would say mystery and suspense is the most common, with history running a very close second.
What have been some surprising finds?
Recently, someone donated a signed first edition from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. There is something about seeing the writer’s hand that I find particularly exciting. Over the years, we’ve found many handsome books that have become a part of the John Wilson Special Collections, the library’s rare book room.
We found a sports biography called The Fight, by Norman Mailer, signed by Muhammad Ali (the book recounts the heavyweight championship fight of 1975, where Ali won the title over George Foreman) with a newspaper clipping inside and a ticket from an appearance Ali made at the University of Portland Chiles Center on November 8, 1985.
NOTE: The John Wilson Special Collections at the Central Library is temporarily closed for remodeling.
What would be your dream book donation?
Oh, the mind reels! How about a signed Hemingway, or an autographed Lucian Freud catalog, or a letter from Imogen Cunningham enclosed in one of her photography books, or Shannon’s suggestion, a copy of PT 109 signed by John F. Kennedy. I could go on and on. Maybe an unpublished manuscript by Virginia Woolf.
Do you need more volunteers?
At this time we have a very full crew in the Book Room. But we always need volunteers for our used book sales.