I did it. Here’s a pic of my bookshelves in 2015 when I first set them up:
Here’s a pic of my bookshelves now:
I ended up weeding half of my collection and donated it all to my local public library friends group for them to use in their fundraising efforts. And it feels good!
I talk a lot about how grad school changed my sense of the value of books. But there was another essential change that happened, one which better explains why I did this.
I initially set out to become an archivist. That desire grew directly out of my love of books, and my belief that preserving materials for future generations is essentially important work.
But I quickly found myself drawn to public libraries, and it grew from a different desire—my desire to help people. My desire to do my part to make my community better. It’s serving immediate need and the people I live with, rather than serving posterity.
I became a public librarian and not an archivist. My love of helping others was more important to me than my love of books.
I’m a librarian, so I used my books to try and help others.
How did I decide what to weed? I ended up pretty much KonMari-ing my collection. I considered every title and asked myself: What’s the story of this book? When did I get it? Why? What role has it played in my life?
I pulled anything that didn’t have a compelling story. Books that played no significant role in my life. It’s a bit shocking how many books that was. And I’m not going to confess how many books I owned that I never actually read.
I only kept titles that were personally meaningful.
I struggled with my theater and philosophy collections the most. I had always thought of these collections as a whole: my theater books, my philosophy books. These collections are meaningful because they speak to important interests I pursued when I was younger.
But I’d never stopped to consider the individual titles within these collections. Most of them were books I got for classes in college—basically just textbooks. Most of them didn’t have any importance to me in-and-of themselves. I kept scripts for shows I actually worked on, and some of the general overview titles, enough so these meaningful subjects are still represented. I kept a few specific philosophy titles because I got them from my mom. I donated the rest.
I kept a handful of nonfiction titles, despite being woefully out of date, because they were part of important events or periods of my life. But most of my nonfic went away.
When I dropped my books off at the friends of the library donation center, I had a sense of joy. Greater joy than I get from having lots of books around.
I’m a librarian because I want to help people. I donated my books to help others. It feels right.