“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.