I’m at work waiting for my classes to begin (I teach European and World history), enjoying my coffee, and catching up on the blogs that I follow, when I came across this post about Eco’s notion of the anti-library, or that part of our libraries that house our unread books and untapped knowledge. What captured my attentionwas not so much the post itself (although it was a wonderful discussion of this idea, and I very much enjoyed reading it), but the first comment written by Sarah Arrow. She writes:
I have around 3,000 books at the moment but only around 50 are anti library. This is out of sync for me as I am counting the books that I have bought, read and never looked at again (they live in boxes in the loft). I think they are actually post-library, their knowledge not required or desired any more. Is there room for post-library in the equation?
A post-library! What a great concept. Yes, there is definitely room for a post-library. Admittedly, I’m a hoarder when it comes to books, having given them up in significant quantities only when left with no other choice, and as a result, there is a small part of my collection that can be classified as a post-library – books whose knowledge I no longer desire or require. All of those Stephen King and Dean Koontz books that I devoured in my adolescence, the old math texts that I can’t bear to part with (although I was never on friendly terms with algebra), my Anne Rice shelf with every book she wrote through the mid-nineties … those are all part of my post-library, and although I will in all probability never read them again, they remain on my shelves.
This idea that our libraries are complex, mutable entities, comprised of these ever-shifting categories is an interesting one. They change to reflect our interests and obsessions, and speak to our intellectual, academic, personal, and emotional growth. My library-library (which houses all the books I’ve read and non-read and still maintain their relevance) occupies most of the walls in home, with my post-library living comfortably alongside it. Evidence of where I am and where I have been. My anti-library lives on my coffee table, as stacks of unread books reminding me of where I have yet to go.