Wednesday, May 09, 2012

How Big Does Your Library Need To Be?

I've heard it said that writers need big libraries. Do they? No.

What writers need is access to information. Fifty years ago that meant having a well-stocked public library nearby or your own one at home. In the 21st century, you need a computer, an internet connection and several bookmarked pages such as Project Gutenburg.

While I use the internet for some research I have a big library, over 500 books at the last count. That said, I LOVE collecting books, which some people don't. I don't keep hold of books that turn me off completely, and there aren't many that do, but the rest are kept on one of my shelves.

I have one 15 foot shelf on my bedroom wall and will put another one up at some future point so I can put some of the double stacked books on my three free-standing shelves on it. That will leave me plenty of space to add yet more books, a lot of which I get from second hand shops these days.

How much of this is needed? Not much. In fact, I have only read just over half of them. Some of the books I bought because they're old, some to read and some to have just in case I need to refer to them. The largest part of my fiction collection is taken up with SF and SF/F comedy with Terry Pratchet having a shelf to himself. Tom Holt is rapidly getting to that point too.

So why so many? It's my anti-library. Library books are popularly misconceived as places where every book will prove useful to some one. If that isn't the case, then it's thrown out. My library contains books that I will probably never read, but have in case I need them at some future point, or just to pad out the huge library I'll have when I earn squillions with my writing (we all need dreams).

No writer NEEDS a library, and most don't have the space for one, but we all need some books, such as a dictionary and thesaurus, and a method of obtaining the information we do need. For that, in our day and age, an internet connection is just as good as a library.


Chloe said...

I love to have books! It's not very modern of me. Minimalism and e-readers are the way to go and I have nothing against them - but I just love books. My biggest single author collection is probably Bill Bryson, though I have the complete works of Shakespeare and Jane Austen too.

Lisa Shafer said...

Yes, but you still can't take notes in the margin and mark up books to my satisfaction on a screen. Sure, the kindle highlights and all (I don't own one, but I know lots of people who do), but that's not enough for me. Sure, it'll do if the book is just entertainment, but not if there's any meat to it at all.
I still need my physical books, thanks.

Milo James Fowler said...

Agreed. And with a Kindle/app, there are so many classics available for free that it boggles the mind.

Patti said...

I love my bookshelf and rummaging through my books. Even though there are a lot of them I've never read, I still have a hard time getting rid of books.

Martin Willoughby said...

Chloe: I still prefer print books, but I'm being won over by ebooks...very slowly.

Lisa: You write in books! Vandal.

Milo: Not forgetting anceint greek and roman texts available for free.

Patti: A book has to be REALLY bad for me to get rid of it.

Kelley Lynn said...

I don't keep a whole lot of books. I like regifting :) I usually don't reread books so...

And now I have a Nook so there are many that are on there and not on a shelf :)

Martin Willoughby said...

Kelley: You are living proof my theory: the younger generation are more interested in digital books than the older. Print will not die, but it will get less important over the next few decades.