For a short while I really did contemplate the extension option, until, that is, our Financial Bear took me firmly by the scruff of the neck and shook some sense into me. He is quite correct when he says that we do not have £30,000 to spare and neither can I argue with the fact that we would all hate the mess and disruption. So, some of those books have just got to go. But, on what principle do I weed?
When I was still lecturing full-time a friend of mine decided that she was going retire at the conclusion of that academic year. She was determined that it would be an orderly retreat and so to that end she decided to start getting rid of those books she wasn’t going to need for that year’s teaching from September onwards. Without a word of a lie, the very day after she took the first boxful to Oxfam a student walked into her office and said she wanted to do her dissertation on precisely the topic Maggie had just unloaded. She had to go down to the Oxfam shop and buy her own books back. It was a salutary lesson.
With that in mind, I’ve started sorting my books into several piles. One of these comprises those books that I know I will need for my teaching and will not be able to get hold of easily through the library. Those I have to keep. Then there is a pile of books that I am constantly dipping into: collections of essays, poetry anthologies and the like. Unless I feel I have outgrown the ideas contained in these, they are unlikely to make the journey either. However, there are a lot of academic books that I hung onto when I retired just because I felt it would be nice to revisit them when I had more time to ruminate over their contents. Guess what? In five years I never opened one of them. Finally, I am going to have to bite the bullet and they are going to have to go. A lot of these are on the subject of Children’s Literature and I know there is someone out there who is studying this. If you live near enough to Birmingham to collect them and they might be of use to you let me know. They are yours for the asking.
Far more difficult to sort through is the fiction. Now, I do re-read occasionally, but if I’m honest a lot of the books sitting there are ones that I enjoyed the first time round, but am seriously unlikely to read again. I can’t keep up with all the new fiction I want to explore so I’m hardly likely to go back to novels that were good but not spectacular. However, I find it is not so easy to wave goodbye to characters with whom I have become personally involved. Whisper it behind your hand; it would be like having to say goodbye to one of The Bears. Ten, even five, years ago this would have been a real problem, but I think I have found at least a temporary answer. Any book that I can download onto my e-reader for free is going. I’m going to have to check this out, but I think that will clear at least two or three shelves. I’m uneasy about this. I like the real thing. But, I have to use an e-reader when I’m out and about because of my back problems. It is silly not to be prepared to use it to solve this difficulty as well.
Eventually, it may also have to be the solution to the space taken up by more modern novels, even if that does mean paying for replacements should I need them. After all, only this morning I saved £30,000 by not building an extension. You can buy a lot of e-books for just a tenth of that amount.
How have other people faced up to this dilemma? I know I’m not alone in worrying about the weight the joists that run under an upstairs study are being asked to bear. Any suggestions for further weeding would be gratefully received because I suspect that the measures I’m putting in place are only going to scratch the surface of the problem and replacing the kitchen ceiling would after all be as messy as any new build project.