02 April 2011

Independent Librarian

I have always loved maps, plans, giant answerbooks--unabridged dictionaries, with ten definitions to a word.  For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to summarize the universe, especially the part touching on human affairs--to capture it, to categorize it, to draw out its main themes, and to build new things on that scaffold.

I used to take a globe, close my eyes, and spin it.  I would stop it with my finger and wherever my finger landed, that place was my destiny.  By this method, I would have many destinies by now.  Mostly I just enjoyed the process, the thought of somewhere and someday.

I used to spend hours at my grandma's house, peering into my aunt's doll house, not moving anything around, just making up stories.

I still look through books of Dover Publications bungalow floor plans-- knocking out walls, building additions, hunting fireplaces, built-ins, and the greatest possible number of windows, and making up stories and planning libraries and parties.  (If you don't know Dover Publications, you need to!  They print Dover Thrift Editions of many classic works for one to two dollars each.  You can sign up for free catalogs on their website.  Or look for a store near you which carries them.  If you're in Michiana, The Griffon Bookstore in South Bend is a great source!)

I have a reproduction of (part of) a massive 17th century Atlas (Atlas Maior) of the world.  There are close-up drawings of walled, medieval cities.  Each town is marked by a red spire.  There are drawings of national costumes.  Every territory is labeled with its 17th-century Latin name.  I got it because I thought I might learn more about my family history if I could see the land they came from nearer the time they immigrated. 

I think the impulse to classify, to have a pocket-reference to the universe, is human.  We are, many of us, natural librarians.  Several years ago, I started working on my own library classification system, something I may implement in my personal library someday.

When I go to the local Barnes and Noble, the brevity of the European history section leaves me with a sense of loss.  Someone who hadn't read much history might think that that was all there was, the voices of dissenting historians silenced by swift cuts to the retail catalog.  My brother tells me that science has suffered similar losses at B&N, while at the same time the new age literature section has grown.  We need to make room for the new ideas, but without continuing to look back, we lose essential chapters in the grand story of human endeavor.

While I think reducing one's material possessions is admirable, I think books are an exception.    They allow us to connect, not just with human beings globally, but with human beings across time.  We must never lose that connection.  Build, collect, organize your library however you want to.  Become a volunteer librarian today!*

*Trees have housed us for generations.  And now they house our words.  Good library-tree relations are essential.  There should be a little of Bombadil in every keeper-of-books.

Every book I own, has my name in it.  If you are in need of bookplates, I found these fairy plates at Oiseaux on Etsy.  These gnome bookplates from Bookplate Ink have been favorites for awhile.  He seems nice.  (Let me know if you have any ideas as to what the animals around the border might mean... perhaps a zodiac from a different sky.):

The Librarian, by Laura Jane Scott.  


  1. Someday, when we live in our manse in the country, where I will happily raise my children, I plan to have a room with built ins around the fireplace where I can finally give home to the boxes of books that I've collected over the years. Do be sure to come and help me organize them into the perfect home library!

  2. I would love to come help you organize your library! I think you're describing an inglenook. This one has seats flanking the fireplace: http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/90summer/images/pic86-001.jpg

  3. Thanks for posting our design B211! Since you like maps, have you looked at our World Map design, B116? We can personalize it, but the non-personalized version is at http://www.bookplateink.com/index.php/store/pre-printed/non-personalized-8.html.