must be in the air because so many of my friends in the book world are
taking charge of their personal libraries. I started a couple weeks ago
by reducing my massive cookbook collection by half. Feeling energized by
that venture, I decided to tackle the rest of my books--both physical
and virtual (more on that in a different post).
A couple of focused weekends later, and my house is breathing a huge sigh of relief. I feel tons lighter too. So how did I cut my personal library by more than half, get organized, and live to tell about it? I'll share my goals, process, degree of success, and plans for the future.
- Get all books off the floor
- Remove all books that I have no hope of reading, despite how much I like the premise or author
- Remove all books that I have no hope of rereading, despite how much I loved the book the first time
- Leave no bookcase double-shelved
- Clean up my LibraryThing catalog
- Organize my remaining books so I can find them
- Organize my Calibre eBook collection with same goals in mind
Note that I freely stole ideas for culling books from my blogging and Twitter friends, especially Florinda from The 3 R's Blog and Amanda from The Zen Leaf -- and maybe even you!
I began by opening up my LibraryThing catalog, so I could create a fairly accurate database of the more recent unread books in my collection. Next, I simply chose a shelf and dumped all the books in a pile. Then I picked the books up, one by one, and decided if I was going to keep it or not.
I didn't have any particular criteria for keeping a book. I read the publisher's summary, the first page or so of the book, and looked at the publishing date. Then I made a realistic guess on whether I'd really read (or reread) the book or not. I was pretty harsh during this process because I was determined to end up with fewer books.
I found it was easier to cull older books than newer books (more hope?). And I also discovered there were authors and series I wasn't ready to say good-bye to, even if I don't plan rereading. On the other hand, I realized there were whole genres I could remove without a second's thought.
I scanned every book I kept and entered each one into LibraryThing's inventory feature. I also made notes in the comment column if there was particular reason I kept a book (for example, for a freelance article).
After I finished each shelf, I went through the discard pile and separated the books into two groups: those that are destined for donation (Goodwill, library, AAUW) and those that will be given away (friends, family, book bin). I bagged up the donation books and took them right to the car. The giveaway books are in stacks until I can get around to moving them out of the house.
- No bookcase or bookshelf is double-stacked. This means there are no hidden books anymore. What I see, is what I have. Win!
- All books are not off the floor, but instead of having piles of books all over the house and on every step, I have just a handful of books without a shelf. Much improved!
- Books are organized and I can easily and quickly find what I'm looking for. Win!
- LibraryThing is cleaned up and useful. Win!
- Caibre is cleaned up and useful. Win! (more on this in another post)
- Regrets? None whatsoever!
- Next time I do a major culling, I'm going to get rid of every ARC older than some arbitrary date (say, two or three years?), no matter how much I still want to read the book.
- I'm going to remember that I have a library card, an eReader, and I love audiobooks. Plus I know where to buy books. I absolutely do not need to hold on to a review copy; I can still get the book later.
- I am going to try to keep the status quo for my personal library. I doubt I'll do a three books in, three books out kind of thing, but I'm going to attempt to avoid accumulation.
- Whenever I finish a book, I'm going to delete it from my LibraryThing or Calibre database and immediately decide its fate: keep, donate, or share.
When a book enters the house, I'll make an immediate assessment. Obviously, I'll keep the titles I need for freelance assignments. But besides those -- whether I requested the book, I was pitched the book, or the book is unsolicited -- I plan to take the time to read the summary, read the first page or so, and look over the promo materials before I give the book a home. If I'm still interested in the title, I'll enter it in my database and shelve it in the appropriate place so I can find it again.
If the book's premise or author's style no longer interests me, I'll put the book in the donate pile right away. In this manner, I hope to avoid filling my house and shelves with books that have little chance of getting read or being featured on my blog or in another venue.
What are some of the ways you keep track of your books? What methods do you use to cull your collection?