A VISION FOR THE FUTURE – THE HERITAGE LIBRARY,
by Cheryl Linebarger
“A house without books is no house at all.”
Clarence Cook, from an1878 book on interior decorating
Do you have books in your home? Do you have a LOT of books? Then you have what may become a Heritage Library already in your home!
Here’s what a couple of other famous folks throughout history have said about their books and home libraries:
“A home without books is like a room without windows. A little library, growing every year, is an honorable part of a man’s history. It is a man’s duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.”
Henry Ward Beecher
“I cannot live without books”
Thomas Jefferson, 1815
Even the apostle Paul, while he was imprisoned, bade Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:13,
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, ALSO THE BOOKS, and above all the parchments.”
(added emphasis mine)
Several years ago, the Lord prompted me to begin building our home library. I began filling our shelves with books of all sorts – biographies, books on nature and scientific discovery, historical fiction, reference books, books on theology, doctrine and Christian living, music books, art books, fiction, poetry – you name it, we have it!
I have since begun calling our home library our “Heritage Library”. Here’s why. My vision is to establish a very fine, private library that will be available not only to my children, but to my children’s children.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gives two very appropriate definitions for the word “heritage”. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is a truly Christian dictionary, and it is rare that I cannot find what I am looking for within its covers. I love this dictionary!).
Noah Webster’s first definition of heritage is, “inheritance; an estate that passes from an ancestor to an heir by descent or course of law; that which is inherited.”
The second definition is this, “In Scripture the saints or people of God are called His heritage, as being claimed by Him, and the objects of His special care”.
While the books that make our library will be a heritage, an inheritance, that will pass from my husband and I to our four children, and then to our children‘s children; it will also represent the fact that we want to pass along our faith to our descendants as well, whom we trust and pray will all be HIS heritage.
Why Build a Heritage Library?
With public libraries readily available, and ebooks becoming increasingly popular, why should we consider building a private home library? Won’t books always be available? I am reminded of one of my favorite children’s books, Patricia Pollaco’s, Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair. In this wonderful story the folks of Triple Creek LOVE their tv sets and are spending ALL of their time sitting in front of them. (I can’t help but replace the idea of TVs with computer monitors, video games, etc. when I read this story.) The heroine of this very humorous and insightful tale is Aunt Chip, and my favorite quote from her is this, “There will be consequences…..mark my words. There will be consequences.”
There are probably as many reasons for building a home, or heritage, library as there are folks doing so. Let me share with you four of my reasons for building a heritage library.
FIRST – Availability and Quality Control:
The availability of books, as well as the quality of the books I put into my children’s hands, are two important, yet practical, reasons for having a home library.
Many years ago, when my oldest son became an independent reader, we visited our local public library, which is part of a very large city library system, so that I could introduce him to some of the wonderful books that his older sisters had enjoyed. We entered the library and headed for the shelves that held the books we wanted to check out. The books on our list weren’t there. I searched the inter-library data base with no success. The books were either in the system, but no longer circulating due to loss, or they had been purged from the system entirely. In either case, they were unavailable for us to check out.
I discovered that the delightful nature stories written by Olive L. Earle, Margaret Waring Buck and Thornton Burgess were becoming increasingly difficult to find at the library. Classic children’s stories such as those by Rudyard Kipling and Mary Norton were no longer available in unabridged format. Only abridged and edited versions of their books were on the shelves.
When we were searching, in vain, for a wonderful series that my younger daughter remembered fondly, we found only books from the Goosebumps series. Shelves and shelves and shelves of that series, with no sign of the books they’d replaced.
As we kept looking I found out that the majority of the non-fiction books in the juvenile section were now either poorly written, or were written at a very low reading level, while the non-fiction books in the adult section were often not appropriate for my young son. The public library shelves were becoming filled with revisionist history, silly science, easy reader versions of the classics, and the latest and greatest pop fiction.
While the public libraries may no longer have the books you want still in their system, on other occasions, the number of copies available are very limited and the waiting list might be very long. When your child has a question, or develops a sudden, intense interest in a topic, you do not want to wait several weeks for the book or books you need to become available. Time is of the essence, and getting a book into the child’s hand right away is important – Strike while the iron is hot!!
If the books are disappearing from the shelves of the library, where are they going? Good question! Some books become worn out and torn and need to be discarded. These are, most often, not replaced with a new copy of the same book. Other books are simply purged from the system and sold.
The first time I went to our Public Library’s annual book sale, I was astonished! Boxes and boxes and boxes of wonderful children’s literature and non-fiction books were being sold. These were not books donated for the sale. They were books that were being discarded from the libraries, rubber stamped “withdrawn from circulation”. Hopefully, most of these wonderful books will find their way into the hands of collectors or library builders such as myself. Otherwise, they will be lost.
Another disheartening library moment came a couple of years later. I had been searching for a copy of Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty. This great out of print book was becomingly increasingly hard to find through my normal used book sources, and when a copy did become available, it was far too pricey for my budget. There were two copies available through the inter-library loan service, so we added our name to the lengthy request list.
We waited for more than a month for our turn to check the book out, and finally we were notified that the book was in and ready to be picked up. I can still remember the sick feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I got that book home. Not only had profanity been penned onto the margins of several of the pages, but there were also several very inappropriate drawings or alterations to the original illustrations that a previous library patron had inked into the book. The book was returned promptly to the library. My reports of the vandalism to one of only two precious copies of this book in their system were met with a very “ho-hum” attitude at the circulation desk. The Lord did bless us greatly just a few days later, though, by allowing us to purchase our own lovely copy for a very reasonable price.
Another quality control issue is the problem of revisionist history. By way of example, let’s think for a moment about Christopher Columbus. When I was in elementary school during the 1960’s, we were taught that Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in fourteen hundred ninety – two……We were taught that he was a courageous explorer. Today, however, Columbus is being blamed for leading the way in the mass genocide of Native Americans. In fact, in 2003, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called for all Latin Americans to forego any celebrations honoring Christopher Columbus.
How can we know the truth of the matter? We were not there. Neither was President Hugo Chavez for that matter. What we do have, though, is the log that Columbus kept during his voyage! Bartolome de las Casas, born in 1474, used Columbus’ log in writing his History of the New World. In 1938, Dover Books translated and published the portion of De las Casas’ book that contained Columbus’ log. Fortunately, copies of the original Dover publication remained in the possession of collectors until the book was subsequently republished in 1991, preserving the words of Columbus for us today.
Just a side note, it was the high demand for source documents by homeschooling moms that in part brought about the re-publication of this book!
The important thing is that we can learn what really transpired when we read from the original source. From Columbus’ log entry dated, Friday, October 12, 1492, we read these words,
“As I saw that they were very friendly to us and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of glass beads to put round their necks, and many other trifles of small value, which gave them great pleasure. Wherewith they were much delighted, and this made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see.”
Not the words of a man bent on genocide in my mind. And yet, this book is NOT available in any form through the very large city/county library system in my area. It is, however, on the shelves of my home’s heritage library!
Please do not misunderstand my intent. I know that indigenous peoples were, many times, cheated, hurt and even murdered by explorers and early immigrants. However, not all explorers and settlers did harm. We need to be sure we understand their intentions from their own words rather than supposing their intentions; and we need to refrain from making sweeping generalizations.
In August of 1995, the New York Times ran a book review that summarizes my point for me. The review states, “Book collectors, whatever their vanity or skullduggery, have been (at least partially) responsible for the preservation of knowledge that might otherwise have been lost.”
Second – Keeping Our Children’s Hearts
I want my children’s hearts to remain at home. Homeschooling is, first and foremost, about discipleship. Academics are secondary. Homeschooling is about training your children in the ways of the Lord. It’s about raising a generation that will honor Christ with their lives. This can only happen within the framework of your home. Do not get me wrong. Academics are important, but they are secondary to our discipling of our own children. I’ll talk a bit more about this in a moment.
How can a home library help me to keep my child’s heart?
My kids have all learned pretty early on that Mom really doesn’t have all of the answers; but they also know that I can help them find the answers! I want the information they need to be found at home. If the information they need is only available outside of our home, their hearts may begin to be gradually turned from our home to outside sources – sources that do not have our children’s best interests at heart. Sources such as the librarian who wasn’t phased at the profane words and drawings in Daniel Boone.
In 2003, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was released and we enjoyed a trip to the theater to see it. That movie inspired an intense interest in pirates in our home! Impressions of Capt. Jack Sparrow were rampant, and many backyard battles were waged against the fictional Captain Barbosa. It seemed my home was consumed for awhile with everything pirate! We had, at that point in time, already built a large enough library that trips to the public library were not happening on a regular basis. My children began pleading with me to take them to the library so that they could “find some books about pirates“.
“You want books on pirates? COOL! Let’s see what we can find.”, I replied. Then, to my boys’ astonishment, I began pulling pirate book after pirate book from our shelves:
Captain Kidds Cat, by Robert Lawson
The real book about pirates,
by Samuel Epstein (I love that title, The REAL book about Pirates!!)
Pirate (DK Eyewitness Books), by Richard Platt
The Barbary Pirates, by C. S. Forester
Pirates of the Spanish Main, by Hamilton Cochran, (part of the American Heritage Junior Library)
Even The Mary Celeste: An Unsolved Mystery from History, by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, which contains one theory about the mysterious disappearance of the crew of that vessel that involves pirates.
Not only was I able to provide more than my children were looking for, I knew that the books I was putting into their hands met our family’s standards for suitability. The boys’ passing interest in pirates was satisfied from the books available in our home.
1- Availability and Quality Control.
2 – Their questions were answered within our home, thereby helping to keep their hearts at home.
Third – A Commitment to Christian Home Education
Our home library shows our commitment to Christian home education. By using our time and our resources to provide the best educational materials possible, our children understand our commitment to their home education. Further, our home library has given us the opportunity to share our convictions and our faith with extended family, friends and even the mail carrier and UPS driver who deliver our books! My husband and I firmly believe that we are called by Scripture to be the sole educators of our children.
“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
It is our heartfelt desire that this commitment to Christian home education be passed on to our children for the benefit of our grandchildren. In fact, our eldest daughter, who graduated from our homeschool in 1998, is married to a gentleman who was a homeschool graduate in 1993. Corin and Rob are both committed to giving their own six children, my grandchildren, a Christian education at home. If you ask our younger daughter, Danielle, what her intentions are for educating the family she hopes to have, she will tell you that she hopes to educate her children at home. Because we were, by the grace of God, able to keep our children’s hearts, we were able to pass along our convictions concerning homeschooling. My son-in-law’s parents were successful in the same way.
With our two older children grown and committed to Christian home schooling, I am encouraged in my vision to continue building a home library for future generations as well as for my own children.
Home education really is a matter of faith. My all-time favorite homeschool resource is Clay and Sally Clarkson’s book, Educating The WholeHearted Child. The Clarksons say, “Be sure that your decision is a matter of conviction that has come from earnestly seeking God and hearing Him speak to your heart through His Word. If home education is NOT A MATTER OF FAITH for you, then you very likely will not last as a “Christian” home educator.” (added emphasis mine)
Homeschooling is is a matter of conviction for us, and this has given us our staying power as Christian home educators for the last 22 years.
Referring again to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, we discover his definition of education. Pay particular attention to the end of his definition.
“Education. It is the bringing up; as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth and fit them for usefulness in their future station. To give the children a good education in manners, arts and science is important. To give them a religious education is indispensable and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”
Fourth – Continuing Education
It is essential for us, as adults, to continually educate ourselves. I think it is also important for us to model reading for knowledge and pleasure to our children.
Earlier I mentioned that Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:13, asked Timothy to bring him his books while he was imprisoned. Charles Spurgeon’s comments about Paul’s words in this passage are powerful. Spurgeon said, “He is inspired and yet he wants books. He has had wider experiences than most men, and yet he wants books. He has been caught up to the third heaven, and yet he wants books. He has written major portions of the New Testament, and yet he wants books. He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books. The apostle says to Timothy and so says to every minister, “Give thyself unto reading,” The man who never reads will never be read. The man who never quotes will never be quoted. And the man who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves he has no brains himself.”
Mark Twain, in a very blunt manner, said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read”. When our children see their parents reading to educate themselves, they understand that we consider education important. When they see us turning to books to answer the questions we have, they learn that education is a life-long pursuit. When they see us reading for pleasure, they learn that books are a good way to spend their leisure time. Parents who read and enjoy reading, have children who read and enjoy reading. Having a large home library enables us to have books readily available for all members of the family, from the youngest child to the most senior member of the family.
My children and I took great joy in watching my husband’s mom browse our shelves of books and choose titles to read during the months she lived with us before her death. My husband’s step-mother spied a title on our shelves once that looked interesting to her. We were more than happy to the book to her. My grandchildren take books home to read almost every time they come for a visit. Your library should be for the entire family.
It would also be a great idea if you were to have books that pertained to your husband’s career or occupation. My husband is a deputy sheriff, and we’ve had various forms of the California Penal Code on our shelves over the years. Motivational speaker, entrepreneur and business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “If you read one book every month about your industry, in ten years you’ll have read 120 books. That will put you in the top 1% of your field. All the books you haven’t read won’t help you.” As a homemaker and home educator, I take Mr.Rohn’s advice and read several books each year pertaining to my own “industry”.
Our husband’s interests are easy to overlook when we’re making purchases for our home libraries. Be sure to make room for books that reflect your husband’s interests and hobbies, as well as books that he enjoys reading for pleasure.
Another part of the family to consider are those that have graduated from our homeschools, but are still in our homes. Perhaps you, as I, have a daughter who has completed the course of education that you set before her. Maybe you have children who are gainfully employed or are running their own businesses while remaining at home in preparation for marriage. Lifelong learning does not not stop with a high school diploma!
Neither of my daughters stopped learning after graduation. Both continued reading and pursuing new-to-them interests and skills. Danielle, for example, continued her study of WWII after graduation by reading an extensive two volume biography of Winston Churchill, all of Tom Brokaw’s books on the World War II generation, and several others. Her study of classic literature in high school sparked a love of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare that she has pursued with a passion after graduation. She continues to read, expanding her list of favored authors and genre, and she continues to educate herself through reading as well. Make the purchase of books that interest your graduates as high a priority as you can. Remember, the books will still be there for your younger children as they mature.
While all adults should be reading to deepen their own knowledge and understanding, and while all parents should be reading as a model to their children, I believe that we, as Christian wives, mothers, and homeschooling moms in particular, need to read even more! We have a tendency to think that we don’t have time to read. Homeschooling moms have a way of pouring themselves out to their families day after day, and this is a good thing. However, if we are not careful, our tanks can run dry.
The late Ruth Bell Graham said, “Read, read, read! Use the Bible as your home base, but vary your diet. I usually have several books going at once, tucked around here and there for easy access.” Having a large home library makes taking Mrs. Graham’s advice very easy!
Filling the Shelves of your Heritage Library
Now that you know WHY I think that building a Heritage Library is so important, let’s think about filling those shelves! Most of you, I am sure, already have quite a few books in your home. Beginning with what you already have in your hand is always a good place to start!
Look at what you have and make some notes. What do you have a lot of? What sorts of books are you constantly running to the library for? When we first started building our Heritage Library we had quite a bit of good fiction, lots of books on Christian living, a nice selection of good histories and biographies, and even some good reference books. What was lacking were good living books on science, nature and geography. We had just a few books on art and music. Nobody was missing them, but we had no books of poetry either. We do now!
You might find, as I did, that your lists of what is missing are long. That makes it hard to know where to start. Since we were committed to using living books to educate our children through high school, priorities were easy to make. From my list of types of books that we were missing, I simply focused on what we would need for the coming school term. For the most part, I follow this plan still.
For example, several years ago I decided that we would study one foreign country and one region of the United States every term. This made choosing which living books on geography to buy easy, keeping each of my son’s reading levels in mind. I do the same thing with the historical periods we are studying, areas of science, etc. This plan allows me to use our home schooling funds to fill the shelves of our library.
My husband and I both routinely ask for books for Christmas and birthday gifts. These help us to fill the shelves of our Heritage Library as well. We buy books for our children as gifts, too. However, the kids’ own books are shelved, for the most part, in their own rooms, giving each of them a lovely start for their own home libraries when they are grown. It’s wonderful when your children understand that a book is never outgrown! Their books are to be kept and treasured and then read and shared one day with their own children!
I do, when timing and budget come together, still purchase books to fill other holes in our home library. I try to keep my lists of what we need current so that I can fill holes as I can.
You also need to remain open to adding entirely new subject matter into your library. Our library had been humming along, growing nicely for a couple of years, when we discovered we had a child with some physical disorders that were completely outside our area of understanding. I immediately set about researching titles and buying books to aid us in educating and helping our son. Providentially, it was discovered at about the same time that one of my grandchildren had some different, yet very similar, disorders. Thus, our section of books on these disorders and special needs kids was born, and a whole new list of books was added to our list of books to obtain.
If the idea of building a home library is new to you, you might have a hard time deciding what you should have on your shelves. There are a couple of things you can do. Visit your local bookstore. With a notebook in hand, jot down the various categories of books that appear as aisle markers. You can do the same thing by running an on-line search for the Dewey Decimal System and jotting down the categories that that system is based on. Then again, that might be just a bit overwhelming! It was for me!
Broader categories might offer a nice place to start. My general category lists for books I want for our shelves look something like this: (and these are not in any sort of order as to importance)
Fiction and literature
History (including historical fiction)
Science & Nature
Art & artists
Music & composers
Reference books (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.)
Religion (children’s books, commentaries, doctrine, theology, etc.)
Homemaking and Home Repair (this is a very broad category covering everything from cookbooks to electrical wiring)
Education and Homeschooling
The list is not extensive, nor is it complete, but you get the idea. The broader categories aren’t quite as daunting as the Dewey Decimal categories and sub-categories. You, of course, will come up with your own categories, as well as your own priorities, for filling your Heritage Library shelves.
Finding the books you want.
Finding the books you want can sometimes be tough. Obviously book stores and on-line book sellers are what come immediately to mind. However, a great number of the books on my shelves are used books, and many are out of print books that are not available new any longer. Remember, a large number of wonderful books are no longer being published.
I mentioned earlier the difficulty I had in finding unabridged versions of children’s classics. The fact is that children in the public schools today are not reading at the same level that they did a couple of generations ago. Today’s publisher has no choice but to edit and abridge books to fit the reading levels of today’s children. For those of us who aspire to have children that read books at a higher level, this simply means that we have to work a bit harder to find unabridged copies of the books we want.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am most definitely not against providing a child with a book written at his reading level, but I also want my children to understand that when they are reading an edited or abridged book, it is really just a “taste” of what the author really had to offer them Though my sons read some re-tellings of Shakespeare written for children and young adults, they knew that those were not the full bounty of Shakespeare’s work that they would encounter in the years ahead. Likewise, my boys grew up loving the retelling of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress that is known as Dangerous Journey – The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress, edited and arranged by Oliver Hunkin and read it several times. However, they were also exposed to the entirety of Bunyan’s classic work by listening to the unabridged version recorded on CD, and several full versions of the book were on our shelves and available for required reading in high school.
Amazon, of course, carries new books, but they also carry thousands of used and out-of-print books for sale by third party sellers. Garage sales and thrift stores are not the bastions of great finds for used books that they once were (at least not in my part of the country), but it is certainly worth giving the shelves or tables more than a cursory glance to see what might be there. Estate sales, which are usually listed in your local paper, are often a better place to find great used books, especially children’s books. Large “Friends of the Library” type sales are good bets, too. However, be prepared for large crowds and a lot of digging through boxes of dusty books at large book sales. The crowds and dust are often worth the effort. At one large book sale, my daughter and I discovered several wonderful books in great shape in boxes stacked in a corner that volunteers had yet to unpack for the sale.
You might also try posting a “wanted” type notice or ad on a community bulletin board. A lot of people hang on to books from their childhoods, even though they have no intention of ever passing them along to their kids. Knowing that someone might offer them CASH for their stash might motivate them to clean out the attic!
You’ll find a few resources for finding older and/or out of print books at the end of this article. Amazon and Ebay, of course, are widely known. AbeBooks has been a GREAT place for me to find the books I want, and their system allows me to weigh my budget against the quality of the book I would like to buy. You can check your local phone directory for names of used book dealers in your community, too. You should also check the antique store listings to see if any of them specialize in books. I’ve found quite a few good quality books, reasonably priced, in antique shops.
Financing the Heritage Library
Building a Heritage Library can, and will, be an expensive pursuit in the long run. However, like all things, the library is built one book at a time. Our home now has thousands of books, but we started with just a paltry few and built from there over the course of many, many years. Even before the concept of the Heritage Library came about, we were building our home library as just an ordinary part of our commitment to homeschooling.
Every family is different, of course, and most of us are one income households. There have been long stretches of time in our home that there was no money available to purchase books. There have been other times then things have come together and a great number of books have been able to be purchased in a relatively short period of time. We do have a monthly amount in our budget for homeschooling. Since we homeschool using primarily the books in our own library, a significant portion of our homeschool money every year is spent buying books for our Heritage Library.
There have been times when I’ve run across nice copies of books we already own, but that I know are priced far below their market value. On those occasions I have bought the duplicate copy of the book and re-sold it, usually on e-bay. I’ve used the proceeds from those sales to buy books for our shelves. I’ve done the same thing with books that we really did not care to own ourselves, but that I knew others were looking for.
At one point in time my husband “invested” $100 in my doing a bit of book buying and selling. While the $100 was, eventually, exhausted, I was able to purchase over $500 worth of books for our home simply by buying and re-selling duplicate copies of books that we already owned or books that could be re-sold for a profit. It was a good investment with a great return!
Let folks know what you are doing, and that you would love to have books they no longer want. We have been given many, many wonderful books over the years by folks who bought books, read them, and then wanted to be rid of them. Other times, we’ve been blessed beyond belief by receiving gifts of books that we’ve wanted. Several years ago, my husband’s step-mom gave us seventeen beautiful volumes from the Grossett & Dunlap Junior Illustrated Classics library which she had originally purchased for her own home. She knew that they would be appreciated and read in our home and would eventually be passed along to the next generation with the rest of our Heritage Library.
One word of caution, though. Be sure that you have a good understanding with folks who give you their old books. Be sure that they are being given as a gift and not offered as a long-term loan. Also be sure that the books are being given to you to use, or not, as you see fit. You want to be sure that you are free to sell or give away books that do not meet your family’s standards, or if the donor would prefer that you return any unwanted books to them instead. Be very sure to thank the donor, either in person or in writing or both, for any books that are given to you.
Be creative! Think of ways that you can stretch the budget to buy just one or two new-to-you books each month. You might cut out that chai latte or iced mocha and use that money to buy a book instead. Ask your husband if you have the liberty to cut costs in one area of the family budget in order to use the savings towards building your Heritage Library. Book by book, your library will grow.
Housing the Heritage Library
If you have now decided that having a Heritage Library is an excellent idea, you are probably wondering where on earth you are going to put all of those books! Some of you are fortunate enough to live in large homes with plenty of room for dozens of bookcases. Some of you live in more modest homes, and finding room for lots of bookshelves might mean placing books in several rooms throughout your home. Some of you might live in cozy cottages and will need to be even more creative in housing your libraries.
It really does not matter if all of the books are housed in one big, lovely room devoted to your library, or if they are shelved in rooms throughout your home. In our last home we housed most of our library on book shelves in our garage. In fact, in those days, the neighborhood children were quite fond of borrowing books from Mrs. L’s garage library!
There are a few things, though, that you’ll want to keep in mind.
First, you’ll want to be sure to protect your books against the elements. My garage at my old house was fairly dry and we kept it quite clean because of the books. However, one year we had some heavy rains that came in under the door. The lowest books were off the floor and out of the water, but the bookshelves themselves wicked water upwards and some of the books got damp and mildewed and had to be discarded. That was heartbreaking! Also, bugs and rodents can frequent garages and other outbuildings and can soil, nibble or otherwise damage your books. It’s okay to keep your books in these areas, you will just have to be diligent in keeping them dry, clean and protected.
You also want your library to be accessible to your family. If the books are in tubs or boxes and sealed up, your husband and your children, or even you for that matter, are not going to want to go to the trouble of opening them up to search for book. You want the books to be where your family can not only find a particular title that they are looking for, but also where they can browse and shop the shelves to discover something new.
For this same reason, you will also want to avoid the temptation to double shelve your books when space is at a premium. We have a stacking, glass front, lawyer’s bookcase in our living room. This is where we have, for years, put our books on marriage, Christian living, mature fiction, etc. It worked great, but as I mentioned, this is where we put that sort of book “for years”. Many of the shelves in that bookcase are double shelved, and I will tell you three things that have happened because of this.
First, I make a terrible mess every time I look for a book. I end up pulling stack after stack out of the front of the book case so that I can see what’s behind. Then the books never fit back in there the same way they came out. Second, I have purchased duplicate copies of books we already own. Finally, some really great books, that are definitely worth re-reading, are forgotten simply because they are out of view, and we lose the benefits we would have received from that re-reading! Since they are out of sight, they are also not remembered when we might have a chance to share a book with a friend. Don’t double shelve your books!
Your bookcases should be sturdy enough that the shelves do not sag under the weight of the books. If you have toddlers in your home, bolting the bookshelves to the wall is also a good idea. Just remember that the bookcase is bolted before you try to move it. I pulled down a good-size piece of sheetrock once when moving a book case from one wall to another. Bookcases don’t have to be pretty, and they don’t have to match. If you want otherwise mismatched bookcases to look like they match, paint them all the same color.
Watch garage sales and thrift stores for sturdy book cases. Perhaps you or your husband are handy enough to build your own. I would suggest, whenever possible, to buy or build book cases with adjustable shelving to maximize your storage space.
Organizing the Heritage Library
Once you have a good collection of books started, how do you organize them? What’s the best way to keep things in order? When the books on our shelves begin to number in the hundreds and even thousands, how can we remember if we own a particular book? How do we find them?
There is, of course, our old friend the Dewey Decimal System. I know several gals who happily use the Dewey System for their home libraries. After all, why rethink the wheel? If that appeals to and works for you, great!
There’s a great resource listed at the end of this article called Valerie’s Living Books. Valerie has a system for her home library that is rather unique, but that is also very functional. All of her science and nature books are arranged according to the days of creation, with subjects such as math, art and music falling under day six and the command for man to take dominion. Her history books are all, very sensibly, shelved chronologically. Fiction and reference works occupy their own sections. That might be a system that appeals to you.
My own library is shelved simply by large subject area. Science, history, fiction, biography, etc. Every so often I find it necessary to move entire sections in order to maximize shelf space. It’s important that we always remember to work with what we have as our first course of action! Because of this things might not always be in “perfect” library order.
For example, we were given a couple dozen paperback Watermill classics that were left over from the public school’s Reading is Fun program. Ideally, all of my fiction books would be shelved alphabetically by author. However, to maximize shelf space, all of those same sized Watermill classics are shelved alphabetically together on a shallow top shelf, while the rest of our fiction collection is shelved alphabetically below. This simple step enabled me to free up one whole book shelf elsewhere.
In reality, the best way to organize your home library is by considering the way that you and your family use your books. Some families shelve their picture books on the shelves with the rest of their fiction, while others prefer a separate area for the picture books. Other families house their entire collection of books together, all history books, science books, etc., regardless of whether they are geared for children or adults, are housed together, while other families house all of the juvenile books in one area, creating their own children’s library, and all of the books for older readers in another area.
Others, like my family, tend to do a bit of both. For example, the majority of my books on art are shelved where they are available to everyone. Others, however, due to their content, are shelved where they are out of reach of the littlest ones, like my grandchildren, and the older kids have been taught that those books are to be used with parental supervision only. The majority of our books on Christian Living are available to everyone, but some few, in particular some of our books on marriage, etc., are shelved where the family understands that they are available only to mom and dad (or to Corin and her husband.).
It’s your library, choose a system that works for you!
Cataloging your Heritage Library
Most of us own a home computer, and most all of those have some sort of a simple data base program already installed. It is very easy to set up a data base for your home library, and this will help you keep track of your books. The only real categories necessary are Title, Author, Subject Matter, and, perhaps, where the book is shelved in your home. You can, of course, get creative and add all sorts of other information to your data base such as publisher, key words to help make finding a book during a search easier, even the price you paid and where you bought the book.
There are also a few home library organization programs on the market. A really great one is Readerware. It is relatively inexpensive and uses several on-line resources to fill in all the necessary information for you about your books. There is even a feature that uses an inexpensive (or even free) bar code scanner that makes entering books with bar codes almost effortless. Readerware is available for a free one month trial download at www.readerware.com.
On the resource list, I have recommended a terrific book by Jan Bloom called, What Should We Then Know? This book is a great resource for learning how to develop a home library. There are even instructions given for building your own inexpensive, sturdy bookshelves
Some of you have only very young children. Others have older children and even older teens and young adults still at home. Trust me, the years will pass by quickly. It seems to me that it was only yesterday that we very nervously began our homeschooling adventure . Corin was a 4th grader and Danielle was beginning 1st grade, and the fact that there were two boys in our future was known only to the Lord. My two girls graduated from our homeschool in 1998 and 2001 respectively. Corin is now homeschooling four of my six grandchildren!
A vision for the future comes to pass very quickly. You will all be grandmothers before you know it! This is why I feel that it’s so important to establish a vision for the future now, and begin to build a library, a Heritage Library, as a legacy that can be used now by your children, and for generations to come by your children‘s children and beyond.
Here are just a few resources to help you as you start building your own Heritage Library:
1. Valerie’s Living Books (scroll down to see all the wonderful lists of books and book series)
2. Who Should We Then Read? Volume 1 and Who Should We Then Read? Volume 2, by Jan Bloom
(Also available directly from the publisher BooksBloom)
3. Read For Your Life- Turning Teens Into Readers, by Gladys Hunt and Barbara Hampton
4. Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature, by Elizabeth Wilson
5. Honey for a Child’s Heart, by Gladys Hunt
6. The 1,000 Great Books List, edited by grade level
Best how-to book for home librarians: What Should We Then Know?, about constructing, furnishing, maintaining and enjoying a home library, by Jan Bloom (Currently out of print and only available used. It’s well worth the effort to find a copy!)
These are just a few of my favorite resources for buying new and/or used books on line:
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rev. May, 2011