(at least for now…)

Since you have all been so patiently waiting, diligently evaluating, weeding and sorting all your books, here is how to display, acquire and safely lend books.

Shelf labeling

Now that you have organized your books, give them the dignity of shelf labels. You can purchase very nice products at Demco or Highsmith, or you might fashion your own with cardstock, either hand-written on cardstock or printed in appropriate font. Whatever you do, make sure you can adjust the positioning of the label on the shelf as necessary.

Acquisition
Self-interview questions when considering a book purchase (yes, even if the book only costs $0.10 at a library booksale) (Questions 1-8 were taken from The Bloomsbury Review; I will personally be asking #9 for the rest of my life. Thankfully, my Darling doesn’t usually ask.)

1. Do I need this book? This book, right now?
2. Is this the best book on the subject?
3. Will it make me a better person, a happier person?
4. Can I find it in a library?
5. Do I already have a copy of this book? Is this copy better?
6. Do I have room for this book?
7. Do I have money to take care of this book? (i.e., shelf space)
8. Is this a great book?
9. Can I justify this purchase to my husband?

A few places where I like to get books:
(A very cruel thing to do to people who already have more books than they need)

www.abe.com of course
If it’s in print, and I have to have it, and someone kindly gives me a gift certificate for Christmas… This is also a good place to find reviews, both peer and professional, if you don’t subscribe to Horn Book or School Library Journal.

Givens Books in Lynchburg, VA.
I’m all in favor of supporting local independent bookstores. They will gladly place special orders for you, make recommendations, etc. If you’re looking for character, try local independents.

Borders/Barnes and Noble.
I admit, I like looking at their bargain books, but I am getting much more picky these days. You should never feel obligated to buy a classic just because it has a bargain sticker on it. Make sure it is of unique benefit to you.

Where to find out about new books:
– Ask your librarian! (Do Like a Duck Does or Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue might be currently checked out)
– Scan the new books shelf at your local library
– If you want reviews, read Horn Book or SLJ (ask a librarian if they have copies you can scan). You can also check Amazon.com
– Many magazines have lists of “great new books” and authors you should become familiar with. (Ignore 99/9% of the celebrity titles they promote. I’m rarely impressed with them.)
– The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children
– Check your library catalog homepage for links to the Boston-Globe Horn Book awards, along with many others. Don’t limit yourself to the Newbery and Caldecott prestige.

Lending out your books
You’re a homeschooler. You have just finished a unit on the Middle Ages, and have an enviable collection that you have gathered from library booksales, discount bookstores, and even chosen from catalogs. Now a family that you have known for years wants to cover the same material. You see them every month at support group meetings and field trips. Safe, right?

You’ve just read a great book that has inspired you deeply. Insisting to your friend that she’ll love it as much as you did and it will revolutionize the way she cleans house, loves her husband, raises her kids, flips pancakes and sees the world, you lend it to her, knowing that she’ll read it as quickly as you did and return it next week.

I hate to create mistrust among friends, but there’s no quicker way to lose a book or create tension in a friendship. Believe the testimony of one who has lent (and lost) many, and returned borrowed items two years later. There has to be a system of accountability. Why do you think libraries charge fines? Not because they depend on them for salaries and book budgets, but to make sure that items are returned in a timely manner.

Bloomsbury Review Booklover’s Guide has a sample contract (211). A simpler approach would be to keep a register, whether it’s a notebook, index card file, receipt log or in your computer database. But as much as you trust anyone, write down the title, borrower, the borrower’s phone number, the date of lending, and perhaps a general agreed-upon date for return. This creates accountability and demonstrates that you do, indeed, care about the book’s return. If the borrower is not prepared to read it in the allotted amount of time, suggest that they write the title in their “books-to-read” notebook with top priority. (You all keep a list of books you intend to read, right?) Or offer the book again when you know your friend is going on a long trip and is more likely to have time to read, since you believe it will matter so much.

The Conclusion of the Matter
Start with one shelf. Before you remove the books, look at it and evaluate what your general classifications might be. Go through a box. Are there any that are not entitled to an investment of time and space and would be of better service elsewhere? When you have determined your essential collection, begin with the first stage, organizing, and carry it through. Make notes of your classifications so that you can be consistent later. If some of your books must remain in boxes, so be it, but make sure you know where each item can be found. “Somewhere” isn’t satisfactory.

Later you can indulge in the task of making a list, once you are comfortable with each book in its home. Keep it simple, so you can keep up with it. You may enlist the help of someone who can be trusted with maintaining the system once it is introduced, so that you do not give up hope if you fall behind.

Introduce yourself to your personal library, your newly settled companion. Enjoy your fresh acquaintance and role as its guardian, proud of your achievement, and wait for your bibliophile friends recruit your expertise in conquering their own gathered assembly.

Select Bibliography
Basbanes, Nicholas A. A gentle madness: bibliophiles, bibliomanes, and the eternal passion for books. New York: H. Holt and Co., 1995.

Challies, Tim. “How to Organize a Personal Library.”

Coblentz, Kathie. Guide to Organizing a Home Library. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2003.

Ellis, Estelle, Caroline Seebohm and Christopher Simon Sykes. At home with books: how booklovers live with and care for their libraries. New York: C. Southern Books, 1995.

Raabe, Tom. Biblioholism: the literary addiction. Golden: Fulcrum, 1991.

Rabinowitz, Harold, and Rob Kaplan, eds. A Passion for Books. New York: Random House, 1999.

Rosenberg, Margot. The care and feeding of books old and new: a simple repair manual for book lovers. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2002.

Wagner, Patricia Jean. The Bloomsbury Review booklover’s guide: a collection of tips, techniques, anecdotes, controversies & suggestions for the home library. Denver: Bloomsbury Review, 1996.

Earlier posts in the series:
Home Library Organization, Part 1
Home Library Organization, Part 2
Home Library Organization, Part 3
Home Library Organization, Part 4
Home Library Organization, Part 5 

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