We book lovers have 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. 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 is time to organize.
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 favorite authors, and that 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.
When you consider that the average bookshelf holds 40-70 books, multiply the number of your shelves by an average of 55. It can be a significant task for a book-loving family. But take a deep breath! Let’s take the recommendations of book lovers, book collectors, and professional librarians and balance them with the needs of our actual homes, starting with perhaps one or two general categories within your collection. The following principles, step by step, will help you manage this project without becoming overwhelmed.
Last week, your home library organization mission was to gather all the books from one category into one place. Using that small subset of your home library as a starting point, it’s time to analyze. 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/family? 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.
Stay tuned for next week when we will tackle the thorny problem of “weeding” the collection! If you aren’t brave enough to weed books out this week, use the questions above to get mentally prepared.