Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Home Library Organization: Part 4

Catch the first parts of the series: 
Home Library Organization, Part 1
Home Library Organization, Part 2 
Home Library Organization, Part 3

Classification and Cataloging
“Classification refers to the system you use to organize your books and their contents; cataloging is the location of the book in the system…The main difference [between a home library and a publicly accessible library] is that your library must please only you, while public and academic libraries must please everybody” (141)

“You can create a library that is a map of your world.” (145)

“Home librarians have been known to do something that accurately resembles the amorphous nature of the world. It is, to the best of my knowledge, almost totally unknown in the world of the real library. Home librarians acquire more than one copy of a book, and then put the different copies in different places!” (146) (this works well when Charlotte’s Web is one child’s favorite, and then Grandma gives a copy to the other child for Christmas.)

As you evaluate your shelves, develop a list of classifications that could be used for sorting. Use broad categories; you can subdivide later. My collection, for example, consists of numerous meta-books (books about books), books about children’s books, fairy tales, classics, poetry, picture books, easy readers, and various forms of fiction. As you go through your stacks of books and determine their classification, make sure you keep a list of your subject headings so you can maintain consistency for searching and organizing purposes.

Your Method
“Your system for organizing your library should allow you to change your mind frequently. Whether it be a computer program or pieces of paper in a file folder, you should choose tools that allow you to expand your ideas about your books.” (152)

“What information do you need to capture in your cataloging system?

“The basic bibliographic information includes title, author or editor, publisher, and the year the current edition was published or copyrighted. Home librarians often like to keep track of when and where they acquired a book, the price, and a personal annotation, which could include their opinions of the book or of the person who gave it to them.” (152)

“In any formal classification system, the most important category is the one marked “Other.” This is where you put your ambiguities, your one-of-a-kind items, your leftovers, and your painfully new ideas. Then, as you play with the data in this category, you will discover new relationships among the pieces of information, and if you don’t find an established category to put them in, you will create a new one.” (153)

Make sure everyone in the house has responsibility for his/her own library. Books ought to be where they will be easily used. Why would you keep cookbooks in the den? Each member of the family can learn to organize the books they want to have near to them for use. (Computer and reference books in the office, bedtime stories and favorite fiction in each child’s bedroom, et cetera.)

Cataloging Your Collection
Free: Excel
Not readily searchable, but you can create a list with author, title, publisher, classification, binding, price, where purchased, shelf location, whether or not you’ve read it, and brief comments. Limited, but basic. Allows you to organize alphabetically, then by classification.

NYPL/Running Press Your Home Library software kit
For those who are committed, need lending records, and want to store more detail in a searchable database. Kit includes binder and handbook. Available through Running Press, NYPL, or It was produced five years ago, so I think there are some improvements over the software, but the handbook by Kathy Coblentz (NYPL cataloger) is well-done.

This is my new personal favorite, as I have just completed classifying, cataloging, and processing the church library and intend to approach my own collection in the coming months. It’s a great site, and you can even order a “cat” scanner so you don’t have to manually input all those ISBNs. Tim Challies of “Discerning Reader” fame (see bibliography) uses LT and explains more thoroughly how it works.
Another site where you can organize and share your books with the world, though I have not yet thoroughly explored this one. Anyone care to comment?

Where to find information about most books:
Look at the copyright information on the back of the title page for cataloging data as supplied by the Library of Congress. You can also find subject headings which may be helpful in organizing; just make sure that whatever you use is consistent. If you can’t think of the right subject heading, by all means visit your library in person or online! Ask your librarian to show you how to find the appropriate subject heading in the online catalog.

What's next? Possible classification schemes, if you want to be formal about it. Then we have to talk about further collection to further manage your personal library.

Home Library Organization, Part 5 
Home Library Organization Conclusion

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Narnia in Audio Format

Audio books are wonderful ways to pass the time on a road trip, encourage children's reading comprehension, or simply fill in the time while doing housework and other projects around the house. A really well narrated work is a true delight.

C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are undisputed children's classics (and Christian classics). Due to the recent well done movies, Lewis's Narnia books are enjoying a resurgence of popularity. I highly recommend "rereading" these books via audio format if you get a chance. The set pictured with the movie photo of Aslan is the new cover for the HarperAudio set of CD's I own. Produced in 2006, each book is narrated by a different well known British actor/actress (Lynn Redgrave, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Michael York, Patrick Stewart, Alex Jennings, and Jeremy Northam). The set pictured with the illustrated version of Aslan is the HaperChildren'sAudio version (2004). My CD set actually has this cover, although the cover now is only on the older version which has older recordings narrated by different actors. If you find a set in a used book store or at a place like Sam's (where we found ours), you might check the date and/or list of narrators if you're picky.

I can't recommend the set I have highly enough!!! These narrators are good at what they do. Even though I know the books backwards and forwards, I find myself wanting to dream up new errands to run simply so I can see what happens when Shasta and Bree head across the desert. What about Reepicheep heading to the Aslan's country? The narration makes these books come alive in a different way than merely reading them silently. Even my two year old is interested in them; while driving, I'll hear her pipe up from the back seat, "Mr. Tumnus" or "Lucy." She doesn't get the entire plot, but she has really picked up on the different characters.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Glass Castle

Truly fascinating book--I couldn't put it down. A memoir, The Glass Castle is about the author's life during childhood as she struggled with her siblings to survive poverty, a drunk and often absent father, a self-absorbed and neglectful mother, and a generally hostile world at large.

The voice throughout the book is what makes this book so worth reading. Written without rancor, TGC takes us through a young girl's own dawning realization of the reality of her life and her parents' roles in her struggles. At the beginning, she idolizes her parents; by the end of the book, she sees them for who they are, yet still seems to love them despite the fact that they could have turned their lives around so easily and at least provided food for their children.

The book has some earthy moments and some crude/vulgar language (when quoting the father), but it doesn't seem over the top or gratuitous given the scenes/reality being described. I'm curious as to whether the people reading this (clearly a lot since this is a bestseller) will take to heart the realization that poverty is still very much present in our world/country. Redemption comes in a manner at the end; it reminded me that Christ loves each and every one of his children even though we must also appear filthy, delusional, and unlovable.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Home Library Organization, Part 3

 Catch up!
Home Library Organization, Part 1
Home Library Organization, Part 2 

Um, yes…also known as “culling” or “weeding.” This has always been a painful subject, but it is true that some books may have outlived their usefulness to you.

The purpose of weeding is to cultivate the quality of your collection. I have found myself freed from obligation by giving myself "permission" to not own a book. (This also applies when considering a purchase.)

There are good reasons to weed. There are good reasons not to weed. There are many personal considerations to weigh: quality, shelf space, cost of maintenance, usefulness, value, etc. Libraries weed for good reason, and although you may have taken advantage of their castoffs, you may find yourself ready to improve the appearance and usability of your own collection.

My primary rules for evaluating a book to keep (or acquire) are:
1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
2. “You shall not covet.”
This puts everything in perspective.

My secondary question is: Why do I have this book?
1. “Because it was free (or $0.25) is not a good answer. Is it valuable enough to your collection development purposes that you would have paid at least half price for it? Is it worthy of taking up shelf space? Does it validate buying new bookshelves (or renting a self-storage unit) to make room?
2. “Because I paid good money for it” (half or full price) is not adequate either. Have you (your tastes, interests, circumstances, etc.) changed since then? Have you acquired a comparatively superior item? If you are unsure, sort and evaluate. You do not need multiple collections of H. C. Andersen’s fairy tales unless they are either especially unique or you are an avowed collector of his works, which should be stated in your personal policy. If a book does not meet criteria, put it in the “sell” pile.

Wagner recommends the MUSTY model (the succeeding comments are mine):
- Misleading, inaccurate, out of date. Unless you’re an official depository for books containing scientific theories that have since been disproved, don’t feel guilty about discarding books about NASA from 1975.
- Ugly. Books ought to be beautiful, if at all possible. Books that are attractive will appeal to readers.
- Superseded. If a better book comes along, don’t feel obligated to keep a former edition or favorite unless you are sure it has lingering value.
- Trivial. People know I like books, and with the best of intentions they sometimes give me volumes that I really have no use for. Remember their thoughtfulness, thank them sincerely, but if you can find a better home for them, you will all be better off.
- Your collection: This book is no longer appropriate for your current passion. If you are finished learning everything there is to know about raising orchids and have moved on to quilting, donate the orchid books to a local club who can use them before they grow misleading, inaccurate and out of date for anyone else.

Consider whether you have read it already and intend to do so again, or if you haven’t read it, will you? Really and honestly? Consider the less fortunate, someone who needs to read a good book.

Become a literary charity. You have such good taste in books, shouldn’t you share with your friends? This is also good justification for purchasing duplicates at library booksales. I used to own about seven copies of C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, but I am down to two. The rest have been loaned out, and I’ve forgotten to whom, but I can always buy more. On the other hand, I have given away sixteen copies of Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss because that is a book that must be read repeatedly over a lifetime, and no kindred spirit of mine ought to live without that book. (Actually, only fifteen of those copies were my own to give away—I still owe one to my mother, having donated hers to a friend of mine!)

So having torn out your fingernails and shed a few drops of blood, what do you do with these books before you change your mind? You could sell them or donate them. Or…look around you. You are surrounded by people who love books and who all have the same happy problem and would love to make it worse! Agree to meet for a book swap (make sure food is included in the plan!) and set up tables where your friends can feed their addiction. Is this helping? If you have weeded your shelves to the point where you have room, you might return with new members of your literary family (make sure anything you pick up meets your criteria). Anything that’s left can be donated. (There are more good suggestions in Wagner’s book.)

You might also choose to give selections from your collection to people who would appreciate them as you would. Your thoughtfulness in matchmaking book with reader is second only to introducing a worthy man to his future wife.

Once you have limited your collection to what you really want to keep, it's time to decide how to make the best use of it.

So how do you actually organize what's left? Coming soon in Part 4.

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

What CAN You Do With a Shoe?

What Can You Do With a Shoe? by Beatrice de Regniers and Maurice Sendak (illus.). A young child's delight: this book asks all sorts of questions concerning what you can do with ordinary household objects (shoes, chairs, brooms, cups, etc.), and then provides all sorts of answers--most rather fanciful, but just the sort of answers a young child might provide! Sendak's illustrations are, as always, just the right touch and fill in the text nicely. For example, the first few title pages show the two children getting on their dress-up clothes, so when the text starts with the title question, the children are clearly already in the midst of playing. Regniers ends her list of questions appropriately with the children asking, "What can you do with a bed?" and Sendak shows them getting into bed and drifting off to sleep.... Highly recommended!

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Mighty" Good Tea at a Chain Bakery?!

I put my tea snobbery to rest last weekend. Or, rather, I refueled it by finding a genuinely good black tea at the Corner Bakery last weekend (in Chicago). I stopped by on a Saturday morning with some friends; we were all in town for another friend's wedding. They all wanted coffee and were convinced that the Corner Bakery would provide both coffee and vittles. I kept my mouth shut, planning to either drink the expected inferior tea in silence or abstain from caffeine all together.

The Corner Bakery carries Mighty Leaf Tea instead of the usual Republic of Tea or Tazo that is generally offered in similar establishments, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. It was great! I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful tea, and the tea bag was cool to boot. This had genuine black tea flavor--clean with no off flavors (no dusty or musty overtones). It tasted fresh and was the perfect strength.

I've done a little research and since discovered that this tea is a touch more expensive than something like Twinings or Celestial Seasonings, but you can indeed find it in some grocery stores (I saw it in Whole Foods) and online. It's worth a try for a good, bagged tea.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Home Library Organization, Part 2

See Part 1 of our Home Library Organization Series.

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...

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