Storage solutions


Alan Powers Living with Books Mitchell Beazley 1999 

Museum Selfie Day — when you post a picture of yourself on social media in front of a museum exhibit — has become hugely popular since it started in 2014. (Twitter account @MuseumSelfieDay has announced it will be on January 18th next year.)

Anticipating the success of Museum Selfie Day the New York Public Library promptly declared that the Wednesday following would be Library Shelfie Day (the 3rd annual event was on 27th January this year). The NYPL blog described how, after the inaugural event, “the stats were flooring: approximately 1,500 Instagram posts and 1,800 tweets from roughly 244 libraries/orgs/anything non-personal accounts.” Following the success of America’s National Library Shelfie Day, Britain’s National Libraries Day (this year held on Saturday 6th February) also celebrated with the #libraryshelfie tag on social media.

Naturally I’ve missed all this fun the last few years, being a latecomer to most parties. So here, on a date of no particular significance, is my shelfie, as I’ve been promising for some time now.

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The Three Rs

Carved Book Landscape by Guy Laramee
Carved Book Landscape: book sculpture by Guy Laramee

Once upon a time we knew (however much we circumvented their purpose by misspelling them) exactly what the Three Rs were: Reading, (w)Riting and ‘Rithmetic. (And yes, spellcheck has helpfully underlined for me Rs, Riting and Rithmetic.) Nowadays primary school kids know all about targets for literacy and numeracy, but the Three Rs mean something different: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I’ve been thinking recently about how they might apply to books, and have been coming up with some conundrums.

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If this is the answer, what is the question?

Decluttering, discarding, downsizing… You may well be fed up to the metaphorical back teeth with my ongoing saga of denuding my bookshelves in preparation for a move. And yet, if you’re a booklover — I’m assuming you are one if you’re following a blog dedicated to exploring the world of ideas through books — such talk may induce a frisson of fear. It does for me. But confessional posts like this help me come to terms with the trauma of parting with books, and may even help you when your time comes!

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Famous last words


My last word on bookweeding, I promise. But talking about downsizing a book collection seems to have struck a chord with quite a few bloggers. As I go on to tackle my journal and magazine hoard I was struck by a parable that fellow book blogger Sari recounts which I thought would help firm my resolve. Who knows, it may help anybody else involved in the same painful process of decimation.

In her post, Sari talks about saying goodbye to books. As she sat staring at a particular group of books, an old Buddhist story came to mind.

A student was eager to learn more and more about Buddhism. He wanted to be a great Buddhist master. His teacher told him that Buddhism was like a boat. The boat can only get you across a river. After that, you have a choice; you can either tie up the boat and continue on foot, or you can drag the boat with you everywhere you go. At some point your education must come to an end. At some point the Buddhist principles are a part of you. There is no more reason to try to grasp at Buddhism as you travel through life.

Sari noted that the same held true for the books on Buddhism she had in front of her. They had served their purpose.

Now I can’t at this point entirely divest myself of books; I’m not like that literary creation who had no need of a personal library — save one book, a Bradshaw’s railway timetable and guide. But as I contemplate a hoped-for move I have to think, do I want to drag a metaphorical vessel along with me? The image does help to focus the mind.

And you may like to know — and it’s no joke — that I am really finding it easier to resist buying any more books until I’ve read the ones I’ve already got. Perhaps I’m waiting till I land up in a new port before considering new ones. But for the moment my catchphrase is ‘to moor is less’.

Boats moored in Solva harbour, Pembrokeshire


Bibliophilism? Or the first signs of bibliomania?

I confess: I am a book hoarder.

I have an emotional attachment to books that manifests itself by my searching out bookshops, acquiring books, carrying at least one book with me wherever I go, having a pile of books by the side of the bed, storing books on shelves all over the house. I instinctively believe in the adage “there is no such thing as too many books, only not enough shelves”.

But it can’t carry on. Continue reading “Bookweeding”