People create collections. Some collections fit in a notebook or a single drawer. Others, such as cars, require copious amounts of room. Collections can be kept small, a few objects on a single shelf, or they may fill a home with display cabinets. They may relate to the collector’s vocation or simply be a beloved hobby. I had a professor of Literature whose home was filled with row on row of loaded bookshelves. Another professor kept fewer books, but had a harp in her living room so she could recite Beowulf to music.
People collect a variety of things. Some collect toys in general, or go specific and collect trains or dolls. Some collect objects from places they have been: shot glasses, match books, postcards, coins, or stamps. Still others collect art or signatures of famous people.
Those who are more scholarly may collect specimens of what they study. A geologist might have a large collection of rocks. An entomologist might have a collection of insects. A paleontologist might collect fossils. Collections like these can be tools for a person’s vocation.
An avid reader with several fields of study may find herself with a rather expansive collection of books called a library.
Such is my case. I have a marvelous library that represents what I study and who I am. Over the years my library has evolved with my interests. At various stages I found certain books were no longer relevant and gave them away.
My fascination with children’s literature and education shows in my teaching certification and on my shelves. My deep love of English Literature is seen in my BA and my collection of classics; those by British authors Jane Austen and Tolkien being favorites. For me, re-reading these books is a visit with old friends.
Later, I studied genetics and breeding theory, even going as far as part of a MS. My love of dogs, horses, and birds resulted in some nice books about those species. This section has been pruned more than once. Periodicals and printouts, collected when I was writing on these topics, were let go when they no longer justified their space. Not without a sigh, but still, one must prune.
I’ve removed books on the study of religions that no longer interest me. My Judaic studies section is only three or four books now, and the same goes for all religious studies outside of Catholicism. I simply had no reason to keep them.
Light reading is relegated to the Kindle. I highly recommend the delights of keeping light reading–literally light!
Recently, I completed a MA in Theological Studies and my shelves reflect that. Church history and Patristics developed into a fascination with the Byzantine empire. Study is part of my vocation and books are tools.
A Library as large as mine is not for everyone. Few people want so many books. I would not want to collect antique glass and there are people whose homes are filled with displays of lovely glass but I understand the attraction. Non-collectors may not understand that collections carefully honed for the edification of the collector, rather than being indiscriminate, represent careful work.
My library is not static but used. In time, it will need to be pruned to keep it relevant. Much like the husbandry-man prunes the orchard to increase its health and yield, I, as I have done many times before, will handle each book and ask myself if it still belongs.
Dear Lord, thank You for books. Thank You for the opportunities to study that I have enjoyed. Thank You for the discovery that I did not have to keep every material good but could pick and choose for myself what to keep. +Amen.