Home Libraries: Tending the Groeling Library

A corner of my workspace

Anyone reading this who doesn’t love books? I thought not! But a book can be a harsh mistress. At some point, they can become overwhelming. The deaths of my parents–bibliophiles both–made it very clear that leaving my books for someone else to deal with is probably not a good idea. So–I have been cleaning and organizing. Covid-19 has provided a perfect opportunity.

As I worked my way through the ridiculous amount of books I once owned, I used a basket. Every evening I went into the “office” and filled it up, then planted myself on the couch and made decisions. The rule was, “One basket a day.” I found books I thought were lost forever, which was a treat–and I found books of which I had multiple copies. Amazon Prime and bone-deep laziness make it easier to reorder a book than bear the frustration of searching high and low, usually unsuccessfully.

The Ellsworth Basket

The basket idea worked out so well that I bought a more appropriate basket (well, it’s not plastic…) and started to put my Ellsworth books into it. Now my EE books live together in a portable home, along with another container for my copious Ellsworth “swag.” It is easy to find books, pick books, put books back, or add to the basket. Yay baskets!

 

 

The Stolen Cart

The other secret organizational method I use is a stolen book cart. Back in the olden days, encyclopedias came to one’s home or school and filled a wooden cart with wheels. The encyclopedia company included the cart with the purchase. I taught school in Baltimore, and several old carts were sitting empty in the library. Just sitting there—empty—dusty—free? So, on a lonely Friday, I took one home. I polished it with beeswax, glued and clamped the corners, and am now the proud owner of a “found” antique. Because I can push it around, I use it to hold books, magazines, printed articles, etc. pertaining to big projects (or massive research) upon which I am working. Currently, it is filled with Special Forces histories and Walt Whitman. I push it to a particular location, load or unload it, and on I go.

I am lucky to have an entire room for my research and writing, although the books are spread throughout the house. My office is my sanctuary, and my library is in constant use. Nothing sits in one place for long, and that is how I like it. The shelved books are sort of arranged by topic. No Dewey Decimals or alphabetical order disturb their long days. The idea of placing them by height, color, or–even worse–backward in the shelf, so all one sees are the pages (just what illiterate home decorator came up with THAT one??) does not exist at my house. I don’t care if they are hardbound or not. Only the first edition classics get special treatment. The rest are written in, underlined, and dog-eared. I have a “working” library that contains maps, old envelopes, CDVs, postcards, artifacts, music on CD and vinyl, and artwork. I also have cats and coffee. Basically, it is Heaven. I am a lucky person indeed.

Miss Emma Rose, the Covid Kitten

About Meg Groeling

CW Historian
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8 Responses to Home Libraries: Tending the Groeling Library

  1. Lovin’ the decor on the top of your bookcase. Do I spy a picture of Mr. Poe behind the skull? Sure looks like his forehead anyway.
    The basket is a cool idea! I have a folding “dinner tray table” for books I’m working through or involve some aspect of my current research project so they don’t clutter up the rest of my already crowded desk space.

  2. What a lovely way to revisit (and/or ‘find’) books from days long ago. I was not so elegant in my organization, since I was still working. Boxes became filled with ‘gifts’ for colleagues –and will be delivered eventually, once the white flags are out. I also found items no longer worthy to keep (shocking, I know!) and they were relegated to the bin on the side yard.

  3. Mike Maxwell says:

    Meg’s report reminded me of something equally important, tangential to the topic of Home Library; and which is known at University Libraries as Special Collections: items that are difficult to acquire (original manuscripts; unpublished autobiographies; hand-drawn sketches and maps…) Local town and city libraries operate a similar system, known as Vertical File. Often just a single 4-drawer filing cabinet, the local library collects historical information of local interest: newspaper clippings and magazine pages, photographs of community members of note; postcards of local street scenes. There are often typed and hand-written pages of Personal Recollections from original settlers, community leaders, and war veterans.
    Does your Home Library include a Civil War Vertical File? If you have taken photographs at a National Battlefield; or accumulated the records of a Civil War veteran ancestor; or collected post cards from visits to Civil War museums… then You have generated your own Special Collection, unique in the world. How are you storing those irreplaceable records?

    • Meg Groeling says:

      I have a lovely Stickley piece that is probably supposed to be a buffet, but its wide drawers and open shelving at the bottom is perfect for flat pieces and boxes of artifacts. It has tall legs, so I store the magazines under it, in baskets. I have interesting ephemera all around as well as some art pottery from the Acoma pueblo and a couple of American potters. Then there are the pieces on the walls, both Civil War & PreRaphalite. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that there is amazing energy in that little room!

  4. Donald Smith says:

    You have a skull on the top of your bookcase? Note to self—think twice about crossing Meg Groeling. 🙂

    • Meg Groeling says:

      Yes. Yes I do. And some good stuff about vampires, Aleister Crowley and a bunch of old Goth music abounds as well! Never underestimate someone who has a pair of Doc Martins from the 80s in her closet!

  5. Ed Flanagan says:

    A book might be a harsh mistress, but they’re my children who never disappoint.

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