The Post-Library

My library and post-library comfortably occupying the same shelves.

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Post-Library

  1. This is such a great concept: my post-library is a room on my grandparents’ flat (they don’t live there) and I plan to build a library in my flat… when I have one. But, I get so sentimental about everything, especially about books. I could never give them up not even to people I really love and who, I’m sure, will take great care of them.

    I read you have a kid, so, it’s for her/him to inherit your library and, who knows, maybe all those books from your adolescence will be re-read!

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