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The Situation With The Books

October 14, 2010

We moved recently, which is always a pain. Months later, I’m still having spaz attacks — tonight over The Situation With The Books.

My husband, in his quest to get everything unpacked, rammed the contents of our individual and joint book collections onto the shelves; the results have left me cranky.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m anal enough that I use the dewy decimal system to organize my books, but I do prefer them organized.

There are several parts to my system: grouping and physical placement.

1. Grouping

I group my books loosely by topic, so that I can find them. There are admittedly blurry distinctions and overlaps that true librarians might gasp at; but then my system simply has to work for me. Currently the only consistency in grouping is “whatever boxes hubby had around him at the time that fit on the shelf,” which is so not helpful when you want to find your 18th century courting customs book.

While I don’t care how he arranges his books (his books and the finding — or not finding thereof is his problem), I am hyper critical regarding the physical placement of books in terms of appearance.

2. Physical Placement / Appearance

This is essential to me because books which appear to be put away with all the care of a child forced to clean his room, shoved in any place so that the floor is clean, means there are books that seem to be ready to tumble towards the floor.  This is not a matter of Type A personality, for dust can and will accumulate; but “shoved” shows a lack of overall care — and my psyche cannot rest with such disheveled shelves.

It’s like I hear the chaos.

And I fear it.

My antique books cannot withstand such dastardly deeds as falls to the floor and uneven spines — and all my books are my friends, and I take care of my friends.

The physical placement of my library is based on the delicate balance between my preferred general sense of care and the realities of limited space.

The limited space issue is a practical reality which I grudgingly accept. While hubby is willing to box his books and pack them away, I cannot. I will not. How can I discover and read them then? How can I use them for research that way?

No, the best way to deal with this is to maximize shelf space.

Here’s how I address it:

A) All books must be placed as far back onto the shelves as is possible. This allows for double rows, or, in the case of over-sized tomes, no spines hanging over to bump. (You’d think this is obvious, but my husband apparently thinks that placing books in the middle of the shelf is best — for what indeterminable reason I cannot fathom.)

B) Books of similar size ought to be placed together; this way, if you must slide a particularly oversized volume along the top, it will lay flat — not only looking less precarious, but presenting less risk of damage to the binding. This also might allow for some sections of the shelf to be double-rowed.

C) All paperbacks ought to be laid flat and stacked. This not only maximizes space by using the full height of the shelf space, but it easily allows for double-rows of on a single shelf. And such stacks also make it much easier for browsing and hunting for books (it is much easier to lift a stack up to peer behind it than to tip or grab a handful at a time).

D) When trying to keep your books in your previously defined groups, there will be times when hardcovers must also be laid flat and stacked; double-rowed, where possible.

I realize many of my rules of book organization may be an anathema to many serious book collectors, but until I hit the lottery or there’s a grant for book collectors like myself, I must work with what I have. And what I have are thousands of books, finite floor space, very limited shelving, and even more limited funds.

And a husband who just doesn’t seem to have the book angst I do.

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