S.F. Public Library to Acquire the Six-Volume Modernist Cuisine

Categories: Ask the Critic
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I was out for dinner with a couple of friends, talking about the reading Nathan Myhrvold gave this week at Omnivore Books, which we had all missed. The cost of attendance: purchasing a copy of Myhrvold's six-volume, 2,400-page Modernist Cuisine -- one of the most talked-about, controversial books of the year -- at a steeply discounted price of $500. (For more background, read Michael Ruhlman's review in the New York Times.) One friend wondered aloud whether the San Francisco Public Library would buy a copy.

Yesterday, I spoke to Mark Hall, fourth-floor manager at the Main Branch of the library, who oversees the purchasing of all cookery books. Yes, he says, the library has already ordered two copies of Modernist Cuisine -- one for the reference section, and a second copy to circulate. The book should be on the stacks in a few months. Although Modernist Cuisine is listed in the library catalog as a single book, Hall says patrons will be able to check out individual volumes. You'll have to check back and place a hold on them when they appear online.

The staff in charge of acquisitions, he adds, are considering buying a second circulating copy for the branches. That will probably happen if enough people reserve copies -- the library catalog automatically notifies staff when that happens. 

Do a lot of cookbooks go missing? I asked. "Cookbook readers seem to be a pretty responsible group," he says. "However, cookbooks are more likely to come back with food stains. We have a good budget for cookbooks, since they need to be replaced more often."

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