The Beginnings of Home Library Organization
Being lovers of books, either for learning or as objects, there is a tendency to accumulate vast quantities of “someday I mights” and “I’ve always wanted tos” in addition to the “essential must-haves.” You may not have time to read them all in the next thirty years, but you hope someone in the family will. How can you resist attending another library booksale when you can easily multiply your collection for the same price as two or three new hardcover volumes?
When the time comes that you are hunting in multiple locations for the sundry titles you have collected on pioneer living and find duplicate copies (some battered, others in more suitable condition), but know you lack several that you lent to a fellow homeschooler or biblioholic two years ago, it may be time to organize.
Are you ready for another major project when your days are already consumed with obligations? When you consider that the average bookshelf holds 40-70 books, multiply the number of your shelves by an average of 55. The results may be discouraging. How much time can you afford to invest and remain committed to the project? The following principles, drawn from the experiences of book lovers, collectors and professional librarians, can help you manage the project without becoming overwhelmed.
The Reason for Organizing
As a personal collection expands into a home library, there follows an obligation to maintain order. Your books are of no use if you are the only one who knows what you own and where to find it. Function requires predictability.
This should not mean that you have to take a cataloging class and affix your spines with classification numbers. Nor should you feel obligated to lose the wonderful spontaneity that comes with your command over the objects, to keep a stack by your bed, or left out tantalizingly on the table. It does mean that there is purpose to grouping your Lenskis, and to knowing that if your interests tend towards colonial America, you should not have to wander to find the titles you have gathered over the years and scattered through bookshelves around the house.
Be proud of your books. They are beautiful, lending color and decorum to any room. But where will their attractiveness prove most successful? In seeing them removed from their shelves and used regularly.
What you have, and Why You Want to Have It.You must have space for your books. Shelves or boxes, your goal is to know the content and purpose for your collection. Have you accumulated beyond your management capability? Has your focus changed? The ages and needs of your children? What are your present and anticipated requirements for your library?
As you approach your shelves to begin to organize them, evaluate:
– Why did you buy this book?
– Has it served its purpose?
– Will you need it again?
– Is there a better book on the subject?
– Is there someone else who can use this?
– Do I have enough room?
It is better to develop a high quality, functional, focused collection, rather than have lots of books that are of little use. Spend your organizing time and energy on the best of what you have.
A lesson on “deacquisition”, also known as “weeding,” is next…