Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Boxes and boxes and boxes of books

Every time I move, I assess my belongings and whether I need them or not. This time, we're moving from an apartment with a lot of storage (it had a full basement) to a place with no storage. We're really going through things with strict guidelines. Any hesitation, and it's gone.

However, I find that I have dozens of boxes of books. Everything from all the science fiction I read to cookbooks to the set of books from my Grandmother when she taught in a one-room schoolhouse. Parting with books is difficult. I can't get rid of a box wholesale; it needs to be sorted and examined. It's a slow process and I normally end up keeping everything.

Recently, the talented Carleen at Library Shrine had a post on whether librarians should own books. There was an article written years ago that posited that librarians should not own books:
[T]he author believed that librarians, quite frankly, shouldn't own books and if they did own books then they should donate them to the library right away. His thinking, as I understood it then, was that the only way for a librarian to truly support and promote their institution was to use the library for all of their reading material and information needs. I finished the article with rather mixed feelings. On the one hand I knew he had a point, that librarians should do all they can to support their instutions but I just wasn't entirely sure whether I was prepared to sacrifice my own personal collection in order to do that.
An interesting idea, but I don't like it. I love books. There are books I've published, that are signed to me by the authors, that mean things to me personally that I would never give up. Also, this is not a good argument. You could use it for any profession: chefs should not have food, cab drivers should not own personal cars, etc.

It just doesn't make sense. Am I really not promoting my profession if I own my own books? What about the chef that eats at someone else's restaurant or the cab driver who also drives his own car? Are they being detrimental to their profession?

It's true that I don't buy the volume of books that I did before I joined the profession (and certainly not NEARLY as many as when I worked in publishing); now I just check things out of the library. I'm able to read a wider variety of material than I ever did just using my pocket book.

For Carleen, she's preparing for a new baby, and wonders:
As far as I'm concerned, there's no better gift for a baby than a book but as I place each book on my registery I can't help but feel a little guilty that I'm potentially asking many of my librarian friends to purchase books that we have at our library that I can check out for free and without the penalty of fines, no less (perk of being a staff member).
Like me, Carleen is going through her books and deciding if it makes sense to have so many:
In addition, I'm currently trying to clean out our overflowing bookshelves in order to make more space for babythings and I'm at my wits end trying to locate another spot in the house to put them. The practical and right thing to do would be to donate them to the library, of course, but I'm having a lot of difficulty parting with any of them.
It's tough. My wife is a High School English teacher, and she loves books, too. Our daughter has a nearly full adult-sized bookshelf of books (she's three months old) in her room. How crazy is that? However, I feel that as a librarian, it behooves me to read, and even to own books so that I know more about what's being published and what my patrons might be interested in. Who else is going to promote librarianship and libraries better than a librarian who knows a lot about books and can speak to his love of books through his own collection at home? Carleen puts this more eloquently (and therefore gets the parting shot):
Books are great conversations starters...they connect people. A visitor catches eye of Me Talk Pretty One Day and immediately know a little more about my sense of humor. They see all my books on art or Chinese religion, Scandinavian history, whatever, and realize that I did actually do or study something else before going to library school.


1 comment:

Alison said...

I got rid of a lot of older children's books about 15 years ago. Now they're out of print and the library doesn't own them. How I wish I hadn't done that!