Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Library

It took us a few days of talking about it but my Bookman and I finally made it down to our library to shelve 6+ months of books that had accumulated in messy piles. Because our library is in the basement it is very easy to take a new book or a just finished book downstairs and lay it on the floor in front of the packed shelf to which it belongs. Close enough to the shelf, out of sight, out of mind. But when the piles start to migrate out of the library and end up in other rooms of the house--the spare bedroom, the living room--and when they start to trip anyone on the way to the basement laundry room, well it's time to do something. This being winter in Minneapolis coupled with the fact that there is no heating vent in the library, means it is cold in there. So James, thinking ahead, plugged in the space heater before dinner the other night and cranked it up to high. By the time we got down there to attend to the books, it was almost warm. We do not have a huge library by any stretch of the imagination. The library is a 12x10 room (give or take a foot) with five-shelf bookcases around the entire perimeter. In the center of the room are two four-shelf double-sided bookcases. Fiction around the edges, poetry on two bookcases on the shortest wall and nonfiction on the bookcases in the middle of the room. Anthologies go at the beginning of each section and everything is alphabetized by author or editor last name unless it is a biography in which case it gets shelved according to the subject's name. We have a few "special" shelves that are "owned" by one author. There is the Virginia Woolf section, the Adrienne Rich section, a Dickens section and in a weird shelf in the tiny closet James has all of the Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman books. Earlier in the day, James had stacked all of the unshelved books in the house in the hall outside the library. We probably had somewhere around 60-80 books to put away. Lots to do so we got to work. It was slow going, not because there were so many books, but because I had to keep stopping and looking at them all. "Oh, I forgot I had this one!" Or "Oh we already have this one!" Followed by a keep or sell pow-wow. Or "I've been wanting to read this one forever." Or "I haven't seen this book before." Followed by me reading the back. Followed by me exclaiming "This sounds good!" Followed by me deciding to take it upstairs with me instead of putting it on the shelf. Followed by a vision of the teetering piles next to the bed. Followed by me caressing the book lovingly and promising it and myself that I would come back for it soon. Followed immediately by a pang of guilt because I knew I wouldn't come back soon. After two hours of this conflicted delight, the shelves were stuffed to bursting. We switched off the space heater and turned off the light and promised each other that we would be back down soon to start the Cataloging Project. We started the Cataloging Project about 13 years ago. We keep killing hard drives and losing data so have never finished, haven't even come close. Finally last year we decided instead of getting rid of our old blueberry iBook, we'd use it as the catalog. I created a simple searchable database on it and we started the Catalog Project--again. We managed to enter something like 30 books before we stalled. Since we are caught up on our shelving--at least for now--we have no excuse. I'm sure we'll manage to come up with at least one good one until the book piles are once again out of control and we have to shelve books instead of catalog them. Before you go, zip over to Mother Jones and read the article about Trina Magi, a librarian who is fighting the PATRIOT Act.