Monday, April 28, 2008

Of Making Many Books there is No End: Home Library Organization, Part 1

Per Betsy's request, I am posting a series on "How to Organize your Personal Library" by a literarian-librarian-bibliophile. This is based on a presentation that I gave to a homeschool group in Iowa when I was a professional librarian about four years ago, though I have updated my thoughts based on what I have learned since then. I will be referring to several helpful books and websites in the process, and welcome all fresh insights!
I will begin with Why You Should Organize: The Theory, The Fact We Prefer to Deny, and The Gathered Assembly.

The Theory:
(from Patricia Jean Wagner, The Bloomsbury Review booklover's guide: a collection of tips, techniques, anecdotes, controversies & suggestions for the home library. Denver: Bloomsbury Review, 1996.)
“Booklovers read, and, therefore, think they know everything. They think they can milk cows, fly planes, grow orchids, and build sturdy, beautiful, inexpensive bookcases, relying only on the information they find in a book. If this were true, booklovers would be the richest, most physically attractive, longest-lived, and most influential group of people on the planet.” (Wagner 111)

The Fact We Prefer to Deny: (also from Wagner, p. 120)
“If your collection is growing, and you don’t weed at the same rate at which you acquire books, and you don’t build more shelves, you will run out of space.” (Wagner 120)

So how do we organize what we want to keep?

The Gathered Assembly:
Although many objects may be gathered to form a collection, books are unique because their identity and content may go a long ways in defining the multi-faceted character of their keeper. One’s past, formative reading is mingled with his present interests and future intentions, building thought upon thought and inviting conversation with any who observe the nature of the collection, or between oneself and the author. How else could you have tea with someone you have never met in person, whether dead or alive? Would you expect to form an intimate acquaintance with C. S. Lewis or Christina Rossetti and summon them to into your presence at will? Even kings are limited in such jurisdiction.

Collecting is a curious appetite. Is it the hunting or the having which brings pleasure? The hunt provides excuse to inquire at every bookshop whether there are any titles by Mrs. E. Prentiss available, any unusual illustrators of Alice in Wonderland, the potential for discovering the unanticipated, the developing of new acquaintances. But to have is to hold, with a story to tell when the volume is admired, the spreading of one’s reign, the satisfaction of possessing a pearl of great price.

(To be continued...)

Home Library Organization, Part 2
Home Library Organization, Part 3
Home Library Organization, Part 4
Home Library Organization, Part 5 
Home Library Organization Conclusion

1 comment:

  1. My husband and several friends have laughed at me because I organized our books by following the Dewey decimal system. I'm looking forward to the second half of this post.


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