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Old Friends, Old Books, New Media

Such fun to join Cindy Ragni and Bill Thompson in the Rare Book Cafe to discuss collecting Baum and Oz!  Our friend Sophia Bogle of saveyourbooks.com recruited us for this streaming event hosted by Ed Marklewicz. We agreed to show this audience of book collectors what our particular special interest is all about. The program aired live Saturday morning Feb. 13 and remains available through the Rare Book Cafe Facebook page. 

During a round of planning emails, we decided to divide and conquer. I would talk Oz and Baum, Bill would share Baum’s pseudonymous works, and Cindy would wrap up our 30 minutes with a look at related ephemera. While Bill and Cindy prepared to hold materials up to the camera for a true show-and-tell, I opted to use slides from a book collecting talk I once gave. We rehearsed with tech support and were ready to go. 

Those of you who’ve lived only in the internet age likely can’t imagine how marvelous this was to me. When I joined the Oz Club in 1971 the only way to learn about collecting Oz books was to attend a Club convention and listen to established collectors talk. In-person slide shows, panel discussions, and displays taught us what to look for. Bibliographia Oziana was the only resource book on the topic; it’s still terrific, but if the terms are unfamiliar to a novice collector—I was 17 years old when it came out in 1976—it could be a challenge. 

Today’s technology gives book collectors this whole new world of opportunities. Talks like ours show you what to look for whether you’re familiar with the terminology or not. Right there on-screen. Point at it. See?  With a camera on every device and devices in every life you can be right there at Bill’s desk as he holds up Babes in Birdland in a dust jacket (I’ve collected for 50 years and have never seen one before). Or have Cindy open a copy of Father Goose to show W.W. Denslow’s signature. These are the sort of treasures usually restricted to rare library displays; with my luck a library display halfway across the country that I can’t possibly go see. Today? It’s right here on my laptop big as life.

The event itself went well with only a short catch when my “screen sharing” of images didn’t go as planned. We recovered. Questions came in live from people watching. We did go longer than expected, and we were just part of a larger weekly gathering. If you plan to watch, expect other topics both before and after Oz. (I loved the collectible valentines’ segment and the regular “things found in books” feature.)

Websites, of course, but also streaming events, Zoom meetings, online interviews, podcasts, and webinars are available. Instagram sends Oz images to my phone. Today we can learn online, buy online, and celebrate our own discoveries using social media. We also have more books! Bill Thompson’s Bibliographia Baumiana was published by the Club in 2018 and The Book Collector’s Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz by Paul Bienvenue is both colorful and comprehensive. I consider both books, as well as the original Bibliographia Oziana, to be indispensable.

Just as Amazon and Ebay have changed the way we can collect, technology is giving us new ways to learn. I hope Oz Club members will adapt to these changes and welcome the benefits they offer our hobby.

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Written by Jane Albright
Currently president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, Jane is a life-long Oz fan. She's attended Oz events around the country regularly since 1974 and amassed an Oz collection that ranges from antiquarian books, original artwork, and ephemera to children's playthings, posters, and housewares. In addition to speaking frequently about Oz, Jane has loaned Oz material to numerous public exhibitions.