Monday, August 15, 2011
Some of my friends and acquaintances keep flaunting their electronic book readers at me. They're confident I will eventually be assimilated. I'm confident I won't be—at least not to the degree they believe. Sure, I expect that one day I will acquire a Kindle or something similar. If I were more of a traveler, I'd probably have one already. However, I've had a life-long love affair with real books and my eventual e-reader will augment them rather than replace them. Trust me on this.
Of course, a love affair with real honest-to-gosh books is both time- and space-consuming. This summer I resolved to get my monotonically increasing collection under better control. It's been years since the last time I sorted and arranged all of my books into something approaching a rational system, and entropy has been steadily working its randomizing magic. Unfortunately, I discovered I had achieved grid-lock.
Are you familiar with the classic Fifteen Puzzle? The goal is to slide the numbered tiles about until they are all in numerical order. The tiles reside in a four-by-four grid, one square of which remains empty. That's what allows you to slide the numbered tiles around. Without the empty square, you cannot budge.
And that's what happened to my out-of-control library: It had grown to fill all available spaces and thus I was left without a staging area—a blank space—to use as a temporary storage niche while unshelving and reshelving books. You really need some elbow room if you're going to do a wholesale sorting of your books—instead of a painfully slow and incremental tweaking. I was reminded of RAM-poor computers trying to run programs that ate up all available memory and then ground to a crawl because of the lack of available working space.
Like I said: grid-lock.
My keenly-honed intellect began to consider options: (1) I could free up some space by tossing out a bunch of unneeded books. (Oops: no such thing!) (2) I could shift more of my math books into my office at school. (Ha! My office is worse!) (3) I could replace many of my books with electronic editions and an e-reader. (Too early! See above.) (4) I could magically create more space by cleaning house. (Huh? What is “cleaning house”?)
In a way, I did choose (4). My residence has a storage room attached to one side of the building, integral to the structure. It's where the lawnmower used to live (long gone; that's what gardening services are for). I went exploring and discovered it was full of old boxes (anyone need the shipping carton for a Gateway 2000 computer?) and some obsolete electronic gear (would you believe an original IBM PC monochrome monitor from 1983?). I began to clear it out.
Of course, the fixed spacing of the shelves assumed that I would follow directions and mount the shelves on the built-in flanges provided on the support poles. Ha! Instead of following directions, I bought five shelving units (with an aggregate of 25 individual shelves) and created three eight-shelf units (one shelf left over).
The results were stunning. The storage room has now sucked up two thousand paperback books and opened up several feet of shelf space in the house proper. Books that were stacked on end tables and floors and the piano (which I can now see again—and really should consider having tuned) are now being spirited into shelves. Hurrah!
I must admit, though, that they are not yet as meticulously sorted and grouped as I had planned. But soon, I'm sure. But first I have to put away some tools.