The care and feeding of a library: how to prune your collection

IMG_1621Selling my books is always so hard to do.  I know that it is time to go through them when they don’t fit in the five bookcases that I have upstairs.  Once they are spilling onto the floor, shelved double as well as across the tops of books and overflowing the night stands, I know I must do something.

The problem is that books are a physical form that I’ve used to define myself.  Here are my books on gardening, cooking, herbal lore.  There are the mysteries, classics and historical romances.  When I let one go, it isn’t just a book, it is a re-definition  of the way I see myself.

Some that I thought I’d never release, I am now re-evaluating.  I have let go some of my Kerouacs.  I realized recently I didn’t need to own “all” of an author’s works.  I thought I would keep all my favorite author’s catalogs forever, but I started to realize that there isn’t room if I keep everything in my life.  In video games, if you aren’t online, your icon seems like it is sleeping.  I feel like some of my books are sleeping on the shelves.  So what to do?

Sometimes it works to compare an iffy book to a true winner.  Winners are books that house friends that I never want to say goodbye to. (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Bennett.) Winners are books that I know I will read over and over.  The comparison to a book I know is alive still for me, helps me see things more clearly.

This winter, I received a nifty little book that is helping with the matter of letting my books go.  It is called, “what i read.”  The pages offer categories for remembering.  The pages ask for the title, author, start/end date, my rating and thoughts.  If you start in the beginning of the year, it can be a helpful record for all the books gathered and read.  If you start when you are de-cluttering books, you might not want to record so much information but simply list the titles.  There are quote pages scattered between the log pages.  Below the quote is room for basic listings.

Another simple method for keeping a log of your books is to put them in the donation bag with all the titles visible upwards.  Then a few digital pictures of their spines can record exactly which titles are heading out.  Make certain that you aren’t letting a book go with an inscription by the author.  If I know I’m not going to cherish it forever, I’ll ask the author just to sign their name.  It feels a little lame selling a book that says, “Dear Janis, hope your writing dreams come true.”

Off they go!

Off they go!

Going to the used bookstore is very pleasant in Seattle.  Last week, I loaded three bags of books and took them to Ravenna Third Place Books.  For bringing in the books, you get an immediate store discount.  Then if they take some, you can either choose cash or a slightly higher amount as an additional store discount.  My son and I ended up buying one new book each.  We did not sell enough books to cover our purchases.  But since we were going to buy those titles anyway, our sales resulted in a deep discount.   The challenge is to have enough discipline to focus on selling and not buying more books.

We ended up carrying two bags of book rejects back to the car.  There are other book buy-back places in town but I haven’t tried them yet.  With the final rejects in the back of my car still, I can either drop them in a blue charity box located by my grocery store or drop them by the local library.

Or I can skip all the stops and donate them first.  Dropping the books right into the bins is the easiest way to let them go.  Yet when I have a pristine copy that I’m certain will sell, it feels good to exchange it for a discount on one shiny new book.  I see that Amazon is also starting a book buy-back program and I’ll be interested to learn how well that works.

All neatened up!

All neatened up!

I could try to only buy new books on the Kindle.  I find that I do buy more books on the Kindle now, but if I feel that I’m really going to love it, then I might buy the physical form.  I also have trouble reading non-fiction on the Kindle because my habit is to skip around in the book for specific information.   I could bookmark a section but I don’t always know what I will want to return to.  So the Kindle helps me to control my library but doesn’t yet replace it.

During the summer I also heavily use the library system.  I make a habit of stopping by there.  When those books go back, I can put them in my little record book as well.

And that way I’ve got them still faithfully recorded and yet free to be read again by someone new.  Maybe even now, there’s a Jack Kerouac novel making its way to you.


What are titles of a few books you know you’ll keep forever?

by Janis Wildy


About writeinseattle

Two Seattle writers examining the writer's life.
This entry was posted in Around Seattle, Janis Wildy about writing, On Writing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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