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My kids’ books are taking over the house!
You and I are true sisters under the skin. You are describing me as well as yourself. Believe me, I can empathize with you. Recently I moved to a smaller house with fewer bookshelves, and I didn’t know what to do with all my books. I boxed up all those I thought I could live without and laboriously carried them to the public library, only to find that they wanted just a few of them and planned to recycle the rest. I am sure you can imagine how I agonized over that. A patient librarian explained to me that, from time to time, they had to “de-acquisition” their own collections and had to be careful about additions. They didn’t even want my complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in maroon leather in perfect condition. I couldn’t bear the thought of putting it into a recycle bin, so I moved it with me. We have to face the fact that the Internet has changed the library world forever.

Let me tell you what else I did, hoping that it will help you. I had quite a few very expensive art books, and I found that the Art Department at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wanted all of those I could bear to part with. The University’s College of Education has a library of children’s books, and they accepted all of those. Also in the new house I added bookshelves in every room where I could find a niche. As for storage and display, you have to work out a system that fits your own household. I have divided mine into categories, such as professional, religion, art, nature, poetry and novels. I shelve them alphabetically by author (or region for the nature books) within those categories. Get your children involved in the reduction process. They’ll have a problem deciding which ones to keep and which ones to let go, just as you will, but they need to be involved in the decisions.

For me this whole process has been very time-consuming, and I wouldn’t say I’m finished yet. But I have to tell you of one good thing that came from the effort. One day, as my arms were aching from lifting books out of packing boxes, putting them on shelves and then deciding that they had to be moved and put somewhere else, I suddenly asked myself, “Why are you keeping all of those books? Most of them you haven’t opened in years.” Well, you want to know what I did? I started rereading some of them. I reread classics like “The Grapes of Wrath” and all of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, and I put myself so sleep at night by working my way through Wordsworth’s complete poetry. I don’t need to tell you that it was a wonderful summer of reading! Have fun in your sorting and “de-acquisitioning.”
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education