Booking Through Thursday – On the Shelf

btt21“How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls on?”

Reading this question sent my mind racing back to the first bookshelf I ever owned, and it’s a clear indication of the bookish little girl I was that my only request for Christmas (and my birthday) during my 10th year was to have a bookshelf of my very own.  You see, my family weren’t readers, and until I came along, there was no need of bookshelves in my home.  But my book collection was growing, and crying out for a safe place to reside.

In the manner of most all of my requests, my desire for a bookshelf was duly granted.  It appeared, a three shelf freestanding unit in the same maple veneer as my bedroom furniture.  It had two drawers at the top, which came in quite handy for my bookish supplies – which included library cards and pockets, as well as date due slips and stamps.  You see, I had been working as the library aide in my elementary school, and our librarian had taken quite a shine to me.   When I told her of my new bookshelf, and my plan to create my own personal library, complete with check-out materials in my books, she contributed some of the necessary supplies.

So I busily began shelving my collection – the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drews, and Cherry Ames series.  Little Women, Heidi, and and The Secret Garden rounded out my collection.  My prize pieces were the hardcover editions of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, purchased for me one by one each year at Christmas. 

One Saturday afternoon, I painstakingly pasted card pockets into the back covers of all the books, then printed the author and title onto the circulation card and slipped it into the pocket.  With one swipe of my tongue, I moistened the label on the date due stickers and pasted them opposite the card pockets.

I settled each book  into the brand new shelves, alphabetizing them carefully by author as I had been so carefully taught by Mrs. H., our librarian, imagining my friends coming over to puruse my collection and borrow books to take home and read.  Finishing the task, I sat back on and surveyed my personal library.

But something was wrong.

The library shelves at school were labeled, so you knew where to look when searching for your favorite author.  How would people find the Wilder books on my shelves?  They would have to scan the entire collection (all three shelves of it!) before they found their selection.

I pondered this dilemma for a moment, and then the perfect solution came to me.

 Rummaging through my desk drawers,  I found my biggest, thickest, black Magic Marker.  Carefully, and in my very best printing, I wrote the letters of the alphabet right on the shelf in front of the books.

I must give my parents all due credit, for they didn’t rant or rave upon seeing my childish scrawl in permanent ink all over the brand new wooden shelves.   My grandmother, however, wasn’t quite as kind.

“Honey, you’ve ruined your new shelves!” she cried out.

Ruined them? Really?

I took another look, and my heart sank like a stone.

She was right.  My bookshelf was ruined.

So I tried to scrub it off, with even more disastrous results.  Now the black ink was smeary and smudged, until my carefully lettered alphabet was little more than a blur.

That little bookshelf remained in my room for many years.  My friends did indeed come and “check out” books.  A couple of them teased me mercilessly about writing on my shelves in ink.  My best friend, extremely neat, practical and clear headed (she’s now an OR nurse), just shook her head.    “That was really dumb,” she told me.

To this day, I still dream about a room filled with bookshelves – a true library, where I can keep all my books in one place.  Maybe it will happen someday…and if it does, I promise not to write on them.

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19 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday – On the Shelf

  1. I think your idea was wonderful! And I would have loved to have you for a friend, because growing up I was the only one of my friends who really read. Only you wouldn’t have liked me, because whatever went into my room took a while to work itself out. I never damaged the books, I just couldn’t find them for a while! 🙂

  2. Your story of writing on the shelves made me laugh. Did your parents ever wonder how they had raised such a reader? My, my, you had plans at ten to have your own library.

    I didn’t ever go as far as checking out my books to anyone, but I did label my books with homemade labels (making sure to note the Newbery winners), and organize them by title. There was something about being organized that made me feel very satisfied!

  3. When I was little I had my cousin help me create an index system for my book complete with numbers and color-coded tabs affixed to each book. I got over that. Now my book are completely random. If I have an criteria for shelving, it’s probably about height.

  4. That is a sweet story; what a fabulous school librarian you had–and terrifically understanding parents! (my grandmother would have called me out, too, if I had had the imagination to write on a bookshelf.)

  5. Pingback: Booking Through Thursday - On the Shelf « Bookstack | ReadersOwn.Com

  6. Pingback: Booking Through Thursday - On the Shelf « Bookstack | ReadersOwn.Com

  7. Awww. It was such a good idea – it was just that at that age you hadn’t got a concept of the medium in mind – a post-it sticker, or any kind of alphabet sticker was what you were really after. You can’t think of everything when you’re ten!

  8. Aw that’s a great story. I dream of one day having a living room with walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves and big bright windows with window seats. Ahhh… maybe one day 🙂

  9. I was always busy rearranging my growing book collection as a child, too. But I would never have loaned mine out- I was so possessive of them I wrote my name in big black letters across the top of all their pages (outside of the book). It ruined a hardback first-edition set of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings I had, a fact I never realized until years later. It tickled my heart to picture you pasting the library pockets in your books- and how wonderful that your friends did come to borrow!

  10. Odd, I can’t remember how I stored my books as a child… I didn’t have a great number, I suppose, and what I had was “ours”, really… shared with sisters and brothers. My first bookshelves that I remember I made with cardboard boxes in my first flat. I do have a room full of bookshelves. Sometimes it’s tidy, and I can actually get to the shelves. Unfortunately, right now, it’s also storing laundry and bags… It will get sorted out again, I’m sure. As to a system. My brother (who is a librarian) has offered many times to come and put order on my books, but I know how to find books, based on what else I was reading around the last time I handled a book, so they’re stored in apparent random order, but there IS a method in my madness, that usually (but not always) allows me to find any given book among the 2000-or-so books in my library. … You did ask!

    I love that story about marking up your bookcase. Aaaw.

  11. What a sweet story! My family wasn’t very bookish either, but somewhere along the way they picked up a bookshelf for me. Now my kids use that same bookshelf, which is neat, but also makes me think I need to get them something newer (and a little more sturdy).

  12. Oh, Becca, I would have hugged you for your labeling attempt and then helped refinish the shelves somehow! At least, I think I would. And putting those envelopes with cards in the back of your books! yes, this story resonates. It’s wonderful.

  13. I shelf my books by author’s last name in alphabetical order. For fiction and literature, I single out the ones to be re-read and put them on a different case. I only put away my books when I have finished. New Books usually sit on my desk.

  14. What a great memory – the happy story of the fun you had organizing your books and the sense of satisfaction when you saw the finished product.

    It is so hard to bite our tongues (and not break a child’s spirit) with the things we say, sometimes! I’m sure your grandmother regretted her words the minute they were out of her mouth.

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