Last month, I was out of state for a while, and anytime I travel, I like to find used bookstores to visit. One day, I happened upon what appeared to be a lovely used bookstore on the main street of a town I won’t name here. Naturally, I was happy to have stumbled upon the store, so I entered, but my happiness was short-lived. The store was so packed with piles of books and boxes full of books and stacks upon stacks of books that I couldn’t get but a few feet into the store before my way was entirely blocked by books.
The owner was a friendly guy, and there had once been a semblance of order to his store, but he was so overrun by books that he didn’t have space for them all. I remarked that perhaps he could use some help getting his store organized, so people could shop it easier. He simply replied that he didn’t need organization; he only needed people to come in and buy the books. I was in the store for over an hour, mostly just talking to him, and no one else came in during that time — no one at all. If that store were organized even just to the extent that a person could move throughout the space, people would go into his store and they would buy books. I did buy a few, but I would have bought more if I’d been able to even see what was available for purchase.
When I left, I got to thinking about my large collection of books at home and the library I’ve been working to catalogue. It was in need of organizing, too, but the books were all on shelves. Believe me, I’d never allow my own books, or a store of them if I ever owned one, to become like what I’d encountered in that used bookstore.
So, when I finally returned home, I immediately began a complete restructuring of my own collection of over a thousand books. The first thing I did was to alphabetize all my fiction, which makes up the bulk of my library. A few years ago, I started cataloguing all the books I own on a library app, so it made my task much easier. I simply switched the app’s organization to alphabetical order and then started searching out each work of fiction. That took me about four days to complete to my satisfaction.
Then I gathered all the short story collections and filled a small bookcase with them. My books about books are on a shelf of their own as are my books about writing. Poetry has its own section as does theater. Non-fiction comprises the smallest space in my library, but I’ve left a bit of room for it to grow. My complete collection of all the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction remained where they were because they were already in their own dedicated bookcase.
The problem will be that when I acquire more books, as I most certainly will do, I will now have to shift and rearrange all the books to accommodate a new one into the alphabetical fold I’ve created. However, for now, I am reveling in my fully organized and beautiful home library that looks nothing like an out-of-state used bookstore I won’t name.
Contact Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month’s reading selection is Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis.