Do any of you have advice on how to manage an out-of-control book collection? I’m afraid that I have too many books!
When I moved into my current office several years ago, I regarded three walls of bookshelves with some satisfaction. Certainly there was room here for all of my books and room for many more! I arranged my shelves in thematic cluster: one massive medieval section, an even larger early modern British area that runs from one wall to another, primary source (in chronological order), and so forth. I even left room here and there for new acquisitions while also leaving the perilous and unreachable top shelves empty.
Fast forward several years and almost all the bookshelves are full. Yet I still keep buying books. While I personally prefer ebooks for pleasure reading and as teaching texts, I can’t lend those to students – one of the major reasons behind my academic book buying! – so I keep an eye out for sales at my favourite presses while also buying must-have books for my many teaching subjects. The result is overfull bookshelves and I’m still a good fifteen years away from retirement.
I essayed a little shelf-cleaning and clearing the other week between class time and a department meeting. I could, with some further work, clear out about four linear feet of books, perhaps six feet, from the office. I’d be culling the books that students won’t really need like 1950s editions of Renaissance texts or that I’m never going to cite in my own research like collections of economic history analyses from the eighties. I’d have to be wildly unsentimental in the process, something with which I usually have no troubles but with books, well, it’s tough. They bring back all the memories, especially if they were a gift or a hand-me-down but even those books chance-gotten at thrift sales or from a pile of discards can become familiar friends just by my seeing their spine on the shelves many years after they were first acquired and read.
We have a bench by the department with a perpetual sign pasted over it: “Free Books!” Usually some prof lays down a few or a few dozen in any given week and they’re all instantly snapped up. I need to remind myself that any books I discard will be soon snatched up by someone else and get to the work of winnowing my collection. Wish me luck!
5 responses to “Too Many Books?”
You can never have too many books, my dear, but if you need help weeding, you can always ask your husband.
If you keep the books to lend to students, then putting them on the “free books!” bench will get them all to good (likely student) homes, thus giving them a feeling of permanence and happiness. Don’t you want to make your books happy?
I like this way of thinking. It does help with the feeling that the donated books do good!
You might want to think of donating them to a small college library.
Thanks! I used to donate them to an associated college but they’ve since pulled out of any such acquisitions so I’ll have to look for a new prospect. (Besides the books that I donate to my own institutional library, which reminds me – there’s a half dozen very recent specialist works they’ll be getting on Friday!).