Thursday, August 24, 2017

815...and counting...

There is a great upheaval happening in our family. My mother’s library, after many years of accumulation and stacking and double-shelving and stacking on top of the double-shelving, is being rearranged.

Like most people, normally I am not fond of change.

However, when it involves touching a great deal of books and reacquainting myself with long-lost or nigh-forgotten friends, that’s another story altogether.

You know you’re a bibliophile when, after all the heavy lifting of bookcases and sniffle-inducing work of dusting shelves is complete, you are excited to make every book at home in its new place on the shelf.*

Some people like to sort by size. Starting with the tallest and ending with the shortest covers, it gives a shelf a lovely crescendo look. 

Others shelve their books by color, not only for aesthetic reasons (the ombre look is so in) but also because they tend to remember a book’s color more than the author’s name or title. This has led to a fairly popular book display fad in libraries and bookstores, where they place a ton of random, unrelated books from various areas of their collection on a table together with a sign that says something along the lines of, “I don’t remember the title, but the cover was blue.”

Personally, having worked at a library for three years—and because my mom assigned me to alphabetize our plethora of Zoobooks magazines as part of my home-school education—I tend toward the traditional approach of alphabetizing by last name, then first name, then title (unless part of a series, then the books are organized chronologically**).

Moving my mom’s library around made me wonder exactly how expansive it was. Moreover, how many books did I have? I hadn’t taken inventory of my own collection for several years. It took about an hour to count my mom’s books, only to find out after I’d totaled all of the bookcases’ numbers that there was a stash of books in a storage room that I didn’t even know about. So the grand total on that is still pending.

However, I can tell you the exact number of my own books: 815.

When I began to count I stipulated to myself I was going to count volumes. The reason for this is that I have several omnibus volumes that contain several full novels them--were I to count these as well, the total would be nearer 900. Kindle books were also excluded—somehow despite my being able to access and read them as easily as a hardcover, they don’t seem tangible enough to count. What did get counted were my picture books, comic book collections (like Calvin and Hobbes), and my duplicate copies of Sherlock Holmes (usually I don’t keep duplicates, but for the Great Detective I make certain exceptions).

Now that I’ve organized and taken inventory, I’ve come to one very important conclusion. I don’t have nearly enough books. Three digits is way too small a number. I will not stop until I have enough books to warrant a library ladder. And, let’s face it, once I’ve collected that many books there’s really no sense in stopping there.

*Readers who exclusively accumulate their books on e-readers may have a similar dilemma of organization. On my Kindle, the books display in order of which books were downloaded or accessed most recently. To keep from having to wade through several pages of queue, I’ve created folders of genre or author, but even that isn’t a perfect system.

**Unless it’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Then I organize them by publication date. I don’t care what the volume numbers say on their spines!

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