Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Family Library

There are stacks of books on the floor of the living room. A seven foot bookcase is under construction in the garage. We have at least fifty new acquisitions to enter into LibraryThing. Three more books arrived by mail just a couple weeks ago.

It is perhaps time to admit that the Darwins are in the grips of a rather serious library-building instinct.

The phrase "library-building" is, I think, key. Because although we've had the chance to read more recently than in the preceding few years, it's still the case that we frequently acquire books that there's little chance we'll be able to read soon.

There are many kinds of book buyers out there. There are great readers and book collectors and fans and innumerable other types that I haven't come up with a good label for. But some people are library builders.

We organize our books into sections: Literature, Classics, Fiction (mainly paperbacks which we're not proud enough of the form or content of to promote to living room display), History, Drama, Theology, Philosophy, Science/Mathematics, Childrens' Literature, School Books, Picture Books. An even greater sign of the malady, every so often one of us will find ourselves staring at a section and thinking, "This section feels a little lopsided, what other books do we need to round things out?" Too much bio and not enough physics and astronomy in the science section? Not enough Greek stuff in Classics? A couple of key authors missing from Children's Literature?

There's a certain utility to all this, perhaps, in that since we intend to homeschool our children all the way through high school (unless they very much object) it's useful to have lots of good things to read around. But we honestly have a pretty good public library within ten minutes of our house. There are plenty of things we could pick up there when we want them. And some of the books we feel compelled to get we may not pick up for five years or more.

Perhaps I read too much about medieval scriptoriums at a pivotal age. Perhaps in regards to books I'm simply too much of a materialist. Whatever the reason, we both find ourselves thinking not just of having books that we want to read, but of maintaining a library, an institution of sorts. And there are some books we simply want to read for fun, which can be checked out from the library or picked up in cheap paperbacks. But there are other books which must be had because... Well, we're really not sure why. But for some reason "the library" seems like an essential thing to maintain.


mrsdarwin said...

Fiction (mainly paperbacks which we're not proud enough of the form or content of to promote to living room display)

I would like to note right here that not a one of those paperbacks is a sleazo romance novel. That is something I won't have in my library or in my house.

Anonymous said...

Does Outlander by Diana Gabaldon count as a sleazo romance novel? - Teresa

mrsdarwin said...

I never read Outlander, but when I worked at Barnes and Noble we used to shelve it and all Gabaldon's other novels in the Romance section. However, since then several people whose taste I respect have said that they've liked the book, so maybe it's worth a read.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

I'm glad we're not the only ones who keep our nice-looking books in the living room, and the more disreputable ones in the back room. Some of the ppbs are in fact sleazo romance novels, but at least they're all written before 1900, which somehow excuses them in my eyes.

Are there APL Friends of the Library Monster Book sales up in your neck of the woods? Educators (including hs'ers) pay $5/box ($3/box after the first box) for children's books, and other books are $1-$2. Many of the books are great sets donated to the APL, and many others are discards that kids won't check out anymore (too old-fashioned or difficult). We've done a substantial part of our library building from these sales.

Darwin said...

In our case, most of the disreputables are just my high school SF/F collection. But we didn't really feel like having 200 brightly colored SF paperbacks invading the downstairs shelves (if there was even space) so a select collection of the better science fiction and fantasy (Lewis, Tolkein, Tim Powers, etc.) live downstairs in mostly hard cover editions, while the other stuff languishes upstairs.


No, though we have the twice annual Round Rock Public Library sale, which last year netted an aweful lot of classic kids books. (What the heck do they keep on the shelves when getting rid of all this?) But unfortunately, we missed that this last go-round while on vacation.

We may have to check out the APL bookstore, though. Is that just the standing bookstore I see on their site?

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

The bookstore is a smallish area; save the gas money for one of the Monster (or Mini-Monster) book sales, when they open up the whole building and get rid of boxes and boxes of backlogged books all at once. That's when they have the $5/box-$3/box deal.

Anonymous said...

I've been in the library building mode too. Ever since I decided I want to homeschool my daughter, I have a decidedly different way of looking at the shelves.

Of course, since we've just finished moving our library and the rest of our worldly goods to a new home, my husband who carried all 40+ boxes of books, isn't quite so thrilled about the possibility of new acquisitions. But I'm sure once the stiffness in his back starts to fade, he'll be acquiring new books right along with me. We're both such bookworms!

I look forward to seeing pictures of the finished shelves. I'm very jealous. I want some good tall, deep cases. But I think we'll have to wait until we've bought a house.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

We had a bookcase custom-made for hs'ing materials by a local carpenter. The bottom two shelves are 12" tall, so as to accommodate binder-height materials, with divides between them so all the folders and 8 1/2" x 11" materials won't just flop over. The shelves reduce in height as they go up, the top two being standard paperback height. It's perfect for hs'ing curriculum materials as well as for standard books.