The Mermaid's Tale

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How to create a personal library


how to create a personal library
Since the invention of writing thousands of years ago, tablets, scrolls, books, and related items have been used to collect knowledge for posterity. Having your own library of a few hundred books is not just a symbol of status, but a pure pleasure only a true book lover can understand.

You don't have to be book lover in order to create your own library, however. It is a simple methodical process to set up, organize, and maintain a personal library.

Get started creating a library

Decide what type of books you want

The first step in creating a personal library is deciding what you books you want. Will it be collection of classical literature, or collection of books related to your hobbies or field of interest, business, or work? Begin by making a list of subjects which are of interest to you. You can always add to it later.

Set your budget

Creating a library takes money, sometimes a lot of money. Your budget will go toward:

As a private collector, you only need to set a monthly budget for your new acquisitions, repairs, and storage. Decide how much you can spend each month on each part of this project, and stick to it.

Make a list of your current books

If you already have a sizable collection, it's just a matter of deciding what if anything you are keeping from the existing books, then recording that list in a ledger. I find that a simple notebook or spreadsheet works well.

Tip: Any books you no longer want should be swapped, sold, or otherwise passed along as soon as possible.

Make a list of books to acquire

There are probably obvious holes in what you have. Make a list of what might be needed to fill those gaps, then go shopping. That means buying books, yes, but also swapping and trading for what you want. The thrift store might have a copy of that rare woodcarving book. Library sales might have something useful. Look in unexpected places for new books.

Set up your library

Once you have your initial book stash ready, you need a place to set up. A bookcase is traditional, but consider alternatives such as converting a linen closet or cupboard for book storage, or use a free-standing cabinet. Old china cabinets work a treat if you have one handy. The important features are enough shelves for your books and if possible a way to reduce exposure to anything that might damage the books.

Decide how you want to sort your books -- what is the best way to find the book you need with the least amount of searching? Do you sort by author? Do you sort by subject? Do you sort by author, then sub-sort by subject? If you like fiction, sorting by series can be a good option.

Tip: Don't be trendy. If you sort your books by colour, you will never find what you need when you need it.

Library maintenance

Once you have your books in their places, it becomes a simple matter of maintenance. If something becomes damaged, repair it. Acquire new books once in a while, then add more storage for those books. Cull the herd if a particular subject needs it. (It's okay to let them go to new homes, honest.)

Avoid direct sunlight

This will dry the paper and bleach the covers. If you want a book to devalue quickly, long exposure to direct sunlight will do the trick. Also, the paper will lose all of its moisture, thus becoming brittle. Once it does, the paper will tear with ease and that is not something any book lover would want to have happen to the books in their personal library. Cloth will rip and leather will crack.

Avoid water

Forget about storing books in a dark, moist place. Mold will eat through the paper and leather. You will have to deal with decomposing paper and an unpleasant smell. No one likes musty old books.

Avoid chemicals

If you tend to clean with detergents, it is best to keep the cleaning or cleaners away from the books. Paper absorbs liquids easily. The effects can be devastating to any book.

Tip: The most important part of maintenance is to remember that books are ephemeral creatures that can't withstand the elements. Be aware of their surroundings.

Don't smoke in your personal library

If you must smoke, go outside. The smoke from cigarettes and cigars never truly leaves a book without months of de-scenting, if then. No one likes smoke-reeking books.

Personalize your library

Once your library is up and running, consider making is yours in a big way. If you have any craft skills, you can make personalized bookmarks, bookplates, and book covers for the books in your library.

Tealmermaid's Treasure Grotto