Like pulling weeds from one’s garden, weeding a collection is often done to make space. But unlike the in-the-dirt activity, weeding books is tough. When you pull that volume off the shelf you are not simply ridding the lettuce patch of all those pesky maple whirly-birds that seem to have taken root over night. Weeding books severs a tactile connection between the written word that once transported the reader to an imaginary realm or conveyed clear instruction or the creative content of any genre in between. There is something special about the art of book collecting. Removing titles is tough. So difficult that librarians will procrastinate for years until bulging shelves, with no room for new purchases, demand attention. So difficult that we dub the work, de-selection, since it requires as much (maybe more) discrimination then demonstrated at the time of acquisition.
I have a small but growing collection of knitting books, a mix of instructional titles and pattern collections authored by well-respected designers. For a number of years, they were stashed on the floor under a Hutton Sculpture bench in our TV room. Not the best location but handy until the quantity outgrew the space available – but where to move them? Our first thought was to buy more shelving but space is at a premium in our 96-year old house with less than 1,000 square feet which generated today’s task – weeding books.
We each contributed to the newly freed shelf space. Gone are eight management titles that I will not re-read in retirement and nine, four-ring Porsche binders. We sold our white 1987 Porsche 944S in 2003 but kept the repair manuals as a visual reminder of the time spent at driver education events when we focused on corner apexes, acceleration points, and tach readings. Photos, trophies and the infrequent scent of brake dust will have to suffice. We even created enough space for new acquisitions as the inches of items weeded exceeded the number of inches needed. Happy reading!