I quite often think about what books I keep and why I keep them. I go through phases where different things matter to me: sometimes I don't want any physical books, and everything should be in ebook as far as I'm concerned. Sometimes I want beautiful hardcovers and there's no point in buying anything that I don't want to look at every day. Sometimes I only want to acquire books if I will be able to pass them on later to someone else, or I think I'll want to reference them over and over, or I don't know when I'll come across it again.

I feel like I'm always slowly working on reorganizing as well as decluttering some of my books. Yes, decluttering. Weeding is important for any library that exists in the physical world, because space is finite and books, it sometimes seems, are not, and after spending multiple conversations with my wife overthinking this or that specific book, I thought that it might help me organize my thoughts if I made my own Library Collections Policy for my personal library.

This is currently the second draft of my Personal Library Collections Policy.

Reason for Being

There are a number of reasons why I might own books, and separating these out has been key to both the way I think about my collection and the way I think about my to-be-read pile and want-to-read list. I collect books because: - I like to read new things - I like to hold and reread my favorite books - specialty research materials can be hard to find in ebooks/libraries - research materials can be easier to reference on paper - I want some books in the house for my kid to access when she's older


Based on those reasons, it makes sense to think of my library as containing multiple collections:

  1. my physical TBR
  2. my favorite physical books
  3. my research library
  4. the collection that overlaps Bug's library

Research Collections:

For the time being the scope of my Collections Policy does not encompass my digital library or the Library

Collection Constraints

My library is currently constrained by 1. space followed by 2. budget and distantly 3. the time I actually have to read books.

Material Selection

When looking to add materials to my library, I should look at all other categories before the "physical TBR" pile as a consideration first. Is it a book on a subject I'm likely to refer back to, or does it fit in with one of my subject matter collections? Is it by an author/part of a series/of a subject where I'm likely to want to own it as an object representing a set of ideas? Is it a MG/YA novel or comic my kid is likely to want to pick up?

Additional concerns: If I do want it for my TBR, is it available via the library? Am I looking at an edition that will be aesthetically pleasing to me? Can I support the author directly or buy it from a local book shop?

Material Deselection, Weeding and Replacement

When looking to remove or replace materials in my library, I acknowledge there are two different mindsets I approach with: First, as someone who is settled in my current location and not going anywhere, or second, as someone who is planning to move and wants to only move books that are most loved. I am currently in the first category and will only outline that for now, in the interest of not triggering myself into the second mindset.

Running out of space for books is the primary reason for weeding my collection at the moment, and most weeding is done either of books that came in to the physical TBR pile or as books for my theoretical future self as that self is refined. In the case of the former, I should acquire books that I am not inclined to keep simply out of guilt because I spent money on them. If I don't know if a book is likely to be permanent, I will acquire a copy that is easy to part with.

As a result, replacement becomes a significant consideration in my process. If I love a book enough to want a physical copy, I want that physical copy to be beautiful if at all possible. I'm currently keeping an eye out for really nice Elric/Michael Moorcock hardcovers, should any turn up. I bought the UK anniversary reissue of Sabriel because it's gorgeous, and I'd love to get matching editions if they make them. Someday I hope to find the out of print fancy faux leather Narnia omnibus that B&N put out or a similarly lovely hardcover edition; I love my fancy Wrinkle in Time hardcover.

Developmental Focus

Regarding books I love: Most of this was covered under Replacement, above.

Regarding poetry: There are a small number of out-of-print books that I'd like to pick up for the ancestors collection, should the opportunity present itself, and I'm still deciding whether I want poetry books as a genre to be a collection or not; I have a number I've kept over the years because I love them, but it may well make sense to consider this its own category.

Regarding my research books: I always have a list of magic and religion books I'd like to own in hard copy. I keep a wishlist on Better World Books of things I'd like to pick up if they become available used, mostly mending or bookbinding books for my current hobbies, and a few gardening books for my theoretical future self. I'm really trying to minimize the Future Self books I buy and/or hold onto, though. Recognizing that this was even a category was a big shift for me, and I'm still working through the idea of aspirational books as different from reference books or the TBR.

Right now I don't need to add more books to my TBR. It's hard not to, because there are so many books I hear about that sound amazing, but the focus needs to be on library books for TBR.

Collection Maintenance

Again, since I have no current plans to move, my collection's maintenance largely consists of remembering to rotate my TBR and send books back out again periodically. I consciously choose to prioritize my kid's access to and space for books, though I'd very much like to round hers up and establish specific shelf homes, which I think would help her have a better sense of what she has and also would get me some more space.

I would like to find a way to be more intentional about books for my Theoretical Future Self. I struggle between who I think I'm likely to be and who I want to be, and I will spend more time getting my head around what I want this to mean before I do much further regarding this category.