Beating my Library into Submission

One of the projects of the last week and a half, when I haven't been doing "real" work, has been to try to get my library under control. One of the conclusions of the last week and a half has been that it's an illusory goal to have my library truly under control. Reducing the level of chaos is a more realistic target outcome.

The major impetus for this project has been the advent of Erika. Now that I am sharing the apartment again, having boxes of unsorted books piling up in the living room no longer seems appropriate. Also, watching someone else move has reminded me that despite my general conviction that "there is no such thing as too many books, only too little shelf space," when one has to move them, too many books can be a serious liability. So it is better to keep my library culled on an ongoing basis, because if I just let it grow out of control, it will become an insurmountable task to sort through it all whenever the next time to move comes around. Also, I eventually won't be able to move freely (I was already beginning to have trouble opening my bedroom door), and most importantly, won't be able to find the books that I already do own.

So I've weeded out about seven grocery bags (!) worth of books that I don't need anymore and/or will honestly never get around to reading, and have begun shlepping them over to the Habitat for Humanity Hand-Me-Ups store in Durham where they can do double duty of finding new readers and raising money for a good cause. If any of my readers are responding to this news the way I would, by thinking, "You're giving away books!?! Let me go through them!" you should know:

(1) The books that I'm getting rid of are REALLY RANDOM and don't necessarily have anything to do with anything I (or you) am/are genuinely interested in,
(2) The books will be practically free at Habitat Hand-Me-Ups: they sell books for 10-50 cents each. So go check it out and support Habitat,
(3) Okay, 0kay, I'll BookCross the titles most likely to be of interest to those with a theological bent at Duke Div. Keep an eye on the stone bench in the chapel breezeway outside of Grey/Westbrook, or the Go Hunting section of the Bookcrossing website, and you might get lucky. But somebody better start making online journal entries about the books I leave, or I'm going to lose interest in the experiment.

Besides weeding books I'm not keeping, I've also been rearranging the ones I am keeping, which has been fun and illuminating, if sometimes overwhelming. Under the heading of treasure-hunting in my own home, I got the pleasure of discovering books that I had forgotten I owned: "Oh, look, I do have a copy of Dark Night of the Soul, after all!" "Hmm, what am I doing with two copies of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra?" Etc. Etc. (Anybody need a copy of Anthony and Cleopatra? Or King Lear?)

I also invested in some additional bookshelves, which gives me the freedom to organize my library in a way that makes more sense, rather than cramming them in wherever they fit. My Renaissance/Reformation collection is no longer vying for space with texts about the twentieth century in a single over-stuffed "history" section, and my history of American religion collection consequently has a little breathing room (to be absorbed by more books, of course). I got my children's lit. collection compiled in one place, which freed up room for my non-Narnia C.S. Lewis collection. (Including six copies of Mere Christianity. Anybody need a copy of Mere Christianity?) Several of my women's studies books have been rescued from the limbo of "Miscellaneous," and finally have a Shelf of One's Own. The books that I really do mean to read, sooner rather than later, now have their own special, prominent shelf.

Knowing me and my book-acquisition fixation, this order may not last for long, but it feels good, at least once a year, to have some idea of which books one owns and where they are.

2 comments:

Jenell said...

Rachel,
I'm trying to figure out who you are..did we ever e-mail? I'm planning to lead a book discussion (in January) at The Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank blog, on Living on the Boundaries, a book about women in the theological academy. Would you be interested in participating? You could work on a chapter or two, or help me think about the whole thing.

Let me know if you're interested. I'm really only inviting you because you think my babies are so cute - such flattery deserves reward!

Myles said...

as to the libraries getting out of hand, it only gets worse the further in my education i go. i just put half my stuff from when i fancied myself an amateuer economist up for sale to afford a set of Aquinas' Summa. it's just gross.

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