Organizing Libraries

I came across an interesting post on SF Signal earlier today, where several bloggers were asked how they organized their own personal libraries. The question is something that I find facinating, and allowed me a bit of reflection on the subject.

As of today, I own seven hundred and seventy three books, all of which are stored in my apartment. I have been keeping track of my collection for almost three years now on a freeware program that I found called BookDB. The program seems to have been made for small libraries with small budgets, given it’s simplicity and the fact that it was a freebie. The program allows for a user to imput s number of things about a book (author, publisher, title, year, page count, genre, and so on). It’s a little clunky, but it works well for what I need. All of my books are entered into the system, and I mark my name in the upper interior corner of the front cover, and shelve it. The program is far better than the Excel spreadsheet that I used, and it provides a good way to list what I’ve got on the shelves, in case the unthinkable happens – a fire, or something else.

Now that I’ve got the books, they’re spread out around my apartment. A couple reside in the kitchen, where they’re useful, while three shelves are in the living room, another is in my bedroom and four are in the library/study that I’ve set up in the second bedroom. There, I’ve generally gotten the books sorted by genre. In the living room, the larger shelf is filled to the brim with history, military history, biography and a small section on space history. The other two shelves are fiction, what I lovingly call Geek Studies and science fiction and fantasy hardcovers and trade paperbacks. The bedroom has all of my SF/F mass markets. The study has a shelf and a half of Star Wars books (mass markets together, and hardcovers on another shelf), with reference, fiction, SF/F anthologies, and coffee table books.

Looking over my shelves, I see organization, and a bit of compulsion. I love books, for a number of reasons – I largely grew up reading, living in areas where we couldn’t get cable, but it always served as a sort of outlet for me during my youth, and has continued as such. I love to learn, and take an immense sense of satisfaction in not only learning something new, but maintaining a place and the tools in which I can continue to learn, to connect and to simply escape into the pages of a book.

I keep the shelves ordered (my girlfriend and mother both delight in selecting a single book and flipping it upside down), by subject then author. Small white tabs underneath different books generally indicate that the book is something that I haven’t gotten to yet – there are a lot of those, and every now and then, I’ll pull a number of books down while I track down some elusive fact or paragraph.

When it comes to the books themselves, I would like to think that someone could easily figure out something about me from the titles on the shelves, from my interests to the care that I take of the books. I’ve often thought that my role in a fantasy story would be a librarian in a gothic house or castle, or that somehow, I’ll someday need some obscure fact hidden away, and so the books stay.

My library is something that’s going to stay with me for a long time, because they’re a part of me, in a strange way. From a lot of my studies, I’ve found that I like small details filling into larger themes. In that regard, I’d like to think that my books represent a bit of who I am, with all of my interests and a desire to keep learning and teaching a little more.

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