Naming What Matters for My Home Library

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My book collection has become a situation. Shortly after I started doing library work professionally, I decided I wanted a personal library. I’m privileged to have always owned books, but I wanted more than a few books on a shelf. I wanted a collection, something I’d build slowly over time. I have that now, and it could be going better. 

For one thing, I’ve outgrown my bookshelves. When that used to happen, I’d just buy another bookshelf from Target and call it good. But now there’s no room for more bookshelves. Hence, the situation. 

One of my favorite people on the internet is Kendra Adachi, a.k.a the Lazy Genius. I never miss her podcast, and I love her book, The Lazy Genius Way. Her work always helps me clarify my thinking, so I re-listened to a recent episode of her podcast called What to Do Before Reorganizing Your Home. In true Kendra fashion, she said something that resonates deeply: start by naming what matters

  • What matters to me about having a well-organized home library?
  • What matters about having a collection where I can find the book I want without moving a gigantic, wobbly tower to get to it?
  • What matters to me about having a home library at all?

These are some of the questions I’ll be thinking about in this post as I design a plan to conquer my bookish clutter. (I wrote about this in 2018 too but have apparently ignored my own advice.) I was going to make a Word doc and work through this project privately, but I thought this post might help those of you who are facing bodily harm due to the stack of hardbacks on your nightstand that looks more like a Jenga tower than literature. Let’s dive in.

Problem #1: I don’t have enough space for the books I have
Solution: Get rid of some books. 
Question: What matters about the books I choose to own?

Here’s what I came up with as I thought about what books and types of books I want to own rather than borrow: 

  • I want to own books by authors whose work I value deeply
  • I want to own books I know I’ll want to write in or underline
  • I want to own books I know I’ll return to over and over again
  • I want to own books that are part of special series I collect
  • I want to own books that are pretty because aesthetics matter to me
  • I want to own books that I’m excited to read right now

That last bullet point is probably the most important one for me as I embark on getting rid of books. I’ve had some titles on my shelves for years that I haven’t picked up yet. When I run into those books at one of my school libraries, I have no hesitation discarding them because books that don’t circulate don’t provide much value to a library. I need to take that approach with my own collection, too.

Problem #2: My books are disorganized. 
Solution: Organize my books in a way that makes sense to me. 
Question: What matters to you about an organization structure? 

Because I’ve been doing library work for nearly sixteen years, I can’t help but want my home library to have a strict structure. I like my fiction shelved alphabetically, and I like my nonfiction divided by subject. Have I briefly considered putting Dewey decimal numbers on my nonfiction books? Maybe, but I don’t want to talk about that right now. Organization matters because it saves me time finding books and putting them away. 

(Dear People Who Shelve Books By Color, 

Your shelves look so pretty, but I just cannot.

Love,
Andrea)

Problem #3: I buy books a lot faster than I can read them.
Solution: Buy fewer books. (Maybe stop checking out 17 library books at a time, too.)
Question: What matters about how I spend my money? 

Of the three main issues I have with my home library, this issue bothers me the least. I don’t mind having many unread books on my shelves, but I know I need to be more thoughtful about spending my money. Years ago, I’d often visit thrift stores and pick up any cheap books that looked even mildly interesting. I’ve become choosier over the years, but I still have work to do in this area. After thinking about it for a bit, here is what matters to me about the books I choose to purchase: 

  • I want to financially support authors whose work means something to me, especially if that author is a person of color
  • I want to purchase books I want to read, not books I think I should read
  • I want to purchase books I intend on keeping in my collection for a long time
  • I want to focus more on quality than quantity, like buying one new book at my local indie instead of six at a thrift store just because they were cheap

Having a home library matters to me because I love books and I like having them around me. It’s that simple. They’re exciting, comforting, beautiful, and stimulating. My collection brings me joy, but only when it’s contained and not piled up everywhere.

Working through these three main problems has helped me clarify what my next steps to need to be in order to go from a situation to an enjoyable part of my home. I should probably go get started.

Small and Low-Cost Library Changes That Make a Big Impact

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Sometimes when I think about changes I’d like to make in the school libraries where I work, I think about new furniture, cool technology, fresh layouts, and shelves packed full of new books. It’s fun to imagine these things, but it’s also unrealistic given my schools’ annual budgets. Instead of making over the entire library and purchasing every new book that’s released, most of the changes I’ve brought to my libraries have been small but effective. Today I want to share a few of those changes with you in case you need some free or low-budget ideas that have a significant impact.

Read the rest over at Teen Services Underground.

3 Reasons Why Weeding Matters

Today I have a blog post up over at Teen Services Underground.

If you went into your local library looking for a book about space, would you want to check out a copy that was published before the moon landing? If you wanted a travel guide, would you choose the one written twenty years ago? Of course not, yet I know from experience that books like these occupy the shelves of many school libraries. I’m going on eight years as a public school library clerk, and during that time I’ve worked in six different schools. Several of them had books on the shelves like the ones I described above. The tape on the book jackets had become yellow and brittle, the information inside was obsolete, and the books hadn’t circulated in years, but they remained on the shelves because no one had bothered to weed the collection. Today I want to share three reasons why weeding matters to me and the difference I’ve seen it make in the libraries where I work.

Read the rest of the post here.

Why I Love Public Libraries

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I’ve worked in libraries for over thirteen years, but I’ve been a library patron for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of the public library where my mom took me to pick out books. My love for the library has always been strong so working there seemed obvious.

That love is still there, so today I want to talk about why I love libraries so much. As technology and society have evolved, so have libraries, and they have a plethora of goodness to offer their communities. I know that firsthand, and I hope you do, too.

Libraries are for everyone.

This phrase became more common after these beautifully designed posters started making the rounds online. I used some in the school library where I work and saw them in the public library where I also work. The message the posters send is essential. How many other places can people go and sit inside for as long as they’d like without having to spend any money? How many other places strive to have something to offer to babies, senior citizens, and everyone in between? Good libraries try to reach everyone in their community, regardless of the barriers some people might find elsewhere.

Libraries provide opportunities
to discover and learn.

My public library has offered free classes about dancing, yoga, finance, painting, and more. They’ve hosted concerts, artists, and poetry readings. Our collection provides material by creators who disagree emphatically on just about everything. Patrons can check out tickets to museums, the symphony, and can even take home a large telescope. There are still books on the shelves, too, about any subject you can imagine. Libraries offer people the chance to find new writers, hobbies, interests, and passions. I’ll never get tired of talking about that.

Libraries meet people where they are and help them go farther.

One of the best services my library provides is called Book a Librarian. This service is an option for people who just got a new Kindle but have no idea how to use it. It’s an option for people who need to type a resume but don’t know anything about Word. Basically, if you don’t know something but want to know something, you can make an appointment for uninterrupted one-on-one time with a librarian who will teach you. How great is that?

Libraries help bridge
economic gaps.

I’ve read many articles over the past couple of years about libraries doing away with fines so that there are fewer barriers for people who need the library most of all. It’s encouraging to know that public libraries offer the same number of checkouts to patrons regardless of their bank account. Food for Fines is another way libraries help people in need. During a select timeframe, patrons have the option to pay off their fines with canned goods instead of cash. The food goes to a local food bank, and the fees are waived. This helps the patron, of course, but it also helps people in need who might not ever visit the library.


There’s so much more I could say, but these topics are nearest to my heart at the moment. Why do you love your library? What services are your favorites?


If you’re as library-obsessed as I am, you might like these posts:


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What I Wish People Knew About Their Public Library

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I’ve worked part-time at a public library for over 13 years. I’ve noticed that some patrons are dynamic library users. These folks know about our events, have no trouble finding what they want, and use our online resources. But there are a lot of patrons who know very little. Here’s a list of things I wish people knew about their public libraries. We have so much to offer, says the woman who’s not biased in any way.

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YOUR LIBRARY’S WEBSITE IS FULL OF TREASURE.

If you’re a student and need to find articles for a research paper, your library will have great online databases to offer you, such as ProQuest or Science in Context. If you’re on a tight budget and want to get out of the house, check your library’s calendar of events. My district hosts trivia nights, offers concerts and poetry readings, and has taught classes ranging from yoga to art. Are you part of a homeschooling family? The library will be your best friend. Not only can you get educational materials, but check your library’s site to see if they offer special cards or classes for homeschoolers.

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YOU CAN HAVE AN ENTIRE LIBRARY IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND.

On your library’s website, you’ll probably find links to media resources such as OverDrive/Libby, Hoopla, RBDigital, or Freegal. I enjoy audiobooks, and I enjoy them even more when I download them to my phone from OverDrive and don’t have to carry around a large, plastic case with multiple CDs. I also like presidential biographies, which can be quite heavy. You know what’s not heavy? My Kindle Paperwhite and the biography I downloaded to it. Your library almost certainly offers downloadable audiobooks and ebooks, but they might also offer magazines, movies, comics, music, or TV shows.

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IF YOUR LIBRARY DOESN’T OWN WHAT YOU WANT,
THEY’LL DO THEIR BEST TO GET IT FOR YOU.

There’s a magical thing called interlibrary loan (or ILL) in which librarians will track down an item for you if it’s not in the collection. Libraries all over the world participate in this system, so there’s a good chance a librarian will be able to find that rare book you’re seeking. I fear patrons will search the catalog, not see what they want, and then give up. But you can always ask about ILL. You can submit a purchase request, too. Just a couple of weeks ago, I requested an ebook through OverDrive, and it was automatically in my checkouts by the end of the week. Trust me when I say your librarian wants you to get what you want.

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YOU CAN PLACE HOLDS ON THINGS THAT
HAVEN’T BEEN RELEASED YET.

At my library, patrons can already place a hold on the 2018 version of A Star Is Born even though it’s still in theaters. Jane Harper’s newest book doesn’t hit the US until February, but I’ve had a hold on it for at least a month or two already. If you want to avoid being 147th in line for a popular item, check your library’s catalog ahead of time and place a hold. Even if you think there’s no way the library will have it yet, check anyway. I’ve been surprised many times.

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YOU CAN CHECK OUT ALL KINDS OF THINGS.

Libraries are no longer places just for books; numerous libraries have a library of things available for checkout. Here’s a list of what I’ve seen various libraries offer:
-Ties and bags for job seekers
-Telescopes
-Museum/symphony passes
-Specialty baking pans
-Musical instruments
-Seeds
-Tote bags full of books for book clubs
-STEM kits and blocks for kids
-Video cameras

I’m sure there are a lot more, so make sure to see what “things” your library has available.

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LIBRARIES ARE NO LONGER JUST QUIET SPACES.

There’s a cliche about librarians in which they’re always shushing people. Perhaps that was the case at one point, but it’s certainly not anymore. Public libraries are no longer quiet places all the time. One library in my city has a coworking space. Another has a studio with cameras, a green screen, and a beautiful Mac desktop that I might be lusting after a teensy bit. Things happen in public libraries like storytime, game nights, art walks, and sometimes even concerts. It’s fun to see libraries become the creative cornerstones of their community.

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YOUR QUESTION ISN’T STUPID.

I can’t count the number of patrons who seem incredibly guilty when they ask me a question. They might say, “This is probably stupid.” I’ve also gotten a lot of, “I’m so sorry to bother you.” Others have confessed how long it’s been since they’ve been to the library at all. Let me assure you that your question isn’t stupid or a waste of time. It has definitely been asked before and will be asked again. Library staff is there to help you find what you need. If a staff person is ever rude or dismissive to you, that’s their problem and not yours. So feel free to ask about whatever makes you curious. The vast majority of library employees work there because they love learning, so they’ll be glad to help teach you something.


Every library might not have the resources I mentioned, but I’m willing to bet a lot of them do. What’s your favorite thing about your public library? What do you wish your library offered?