Monday, June 20, 2011

How Does Your Library Grow?


While the latest online expression of bibliomania reminds Mrs. Darwin's other half of what it was like to start building his own library from scratch . . .

. . . certainly by age ten I had caught the book bug, and talked about "my library", which I consciously built--acquiring copies even of books my parents already owned so that years hence, when I was on my own, my library wouldn't have gaps in it. (Ah, the idealism of youth. I did not realize how inevitable it is that every library have gaps in it.)

. . . an impending move across the world threatens an older library Emily J has been building for years:

If I keep these books, will I be retaining a bit of the college student I once was? Will I maintain a certain elan if I have these books on my shelf? The problem is not only that I don't have enough shelves, but that that student is long gone. Why is it so hard to let go? Stripping away the accretions of the last few years is more painful than plucking eyebrows. This stuff represents a certain identity I don't have anymore. And the possibility of an academic identity that I will never achieve. I need to make a clean break. Detachment, detachment! one side of my mind keeps chanting. The other side whines, but I love this!

I'll bet even the ancient librarians at Alexandria had to face the fact that they'd always have gaps in their collection, although I don't know whether there were enough scrolls in their age for them to worry about having to trim some fat. In any case, the library was destroyed, thus becoming one of the hugest gaps in humanity's collective hoard--a loss we still feel today, an age when we are glutted with endless new things to read.

All this talk of tending libraries from infancy to maturity--with new hints that dedicated librarians might also have to guard against senility--has inspired a couple of organic metaphors.

The garden that needs as much regular weeding as regular watering.

The bowl of yeast we have to keep feeding if we want our daily bread.

I'm sure I'll be able to come up with more in time . . .


Emily J. said...

I love these, E!

And if I were more creative, I'd try to think of one of my own, but right now I'm feeling more consumed by my library than consuming it. Organic metaphors are apropos for a thing that seems to have a life of its own... Perhaps something about how judicious pruning results in a healthier shrub . . .

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, you're so right that libraries seem to take on a life of their own after a while. I wonder why there aren't more Horror movies about libraries that literally consume their owners. ;-)

Just a short while ago, some dog metaphors came to me. (Yes, I know I'm weird.) My library suddenly looked, for all the world, like one of those poor labradors whose owner let it get obese. There are some owners of labs who assume, since the dogs are always "hungry," that they must always be fed. =P Well, while labs will apparently eat anything at any time, they should be kept to a strict feeding regimen. And so should my library, when it comes to new acquisitions!