December 1, 2010

Sorting Out My Book Collection

Unsurprisingly, I own a lot of books. My collection isn't enormous, but it's large enough to present a storage problem. A growing storage problem, since a healthy book collection never stops growing.

At some point in the past, I had an appropriate number of shelves for the number of books, and the books were arranged on the shelves in a reasonable fashion. That point was perhaps four or five years ago. All books acquired since then ended up stacked in empty spaces at the ends of shelves, or on the floor, or on other nearby surfaces. I'd been meaning to do something about this problem for, well, four or five years.

This November, I didn't manage to write a novel, but NaNoWriMo did give me the motivation to finally reorganize my books. The First Annual Great NaNoWriMo Book Drive presented an opportunity to donate books I no longer wanted to Better World Books in support of reading and writing education. A chance to do good AND let someone else deal with my unwanted books? Count me in! (The book drive continues until December 15, so if you're also looking for a responsible way to get rid of books, I can help connect you with a bookdriver in your area.)

My local bookdriver-in-chief, The Book Roadie (aka Ealasaid Haas) recently posted a three-part series about organizing her library. My collection is smaller, so I didn't have to think as much about classification, but I roughly followed Ealasaid's technique for sorting and reshelving.

These two photos show a quick before-and-after for the main area of my library. For a more dramatic story, take a look at this Flickr gallery charting the reorganization.

Hall bookcases, before

Hall bookcases, after

I got rid of about 150 books, and that was without making any tough calls. A few of these were books that I read but didn't like enough to keep. A lot more were books I never read and had to admit I probably never would. Many were humor and wordplay books I received as gifts, and I apologize to my family for that, but I just had more than I knew what to do with. You may now feel free to dump the similar books I gave you over the years.

After counting the 150 books that I packed into boxes for the drive, I realized that the remaining collection had to be a lot larger than "I don't know, 300?" In fact, I still have about 600 books. They are now all neatly organized, with the fiction alphabetized by author and the nonfiction divided into broad categories, and they fit onto the available shelves. But alas, there's not nearly as much leftover space as I was hoping for all the books I want to buy.


Neale said...

You inspired me. I reorganized the books on my Kindle iphone app.

Liz said...

Someday, the "after" photo of one corner of my room might be as nice as your "before" photos!

Anna Scott Graham said...

We did a big clear-out when we returned to California, but since then the collection has been building. It helps when kids move out, but youngest daughter is NOT the reader eldest is, and I think actually YD left a lot of her kid books here, hmmm...

You did a great job! I'll start thinking about this for next year. By then I'm sure we'll have a few that can go.

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