Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Care: Horizontal vs. Vertical vs. Jumbled Up

     A conundrum has entered the life of this bibliophile: How do I get more space from the bookshelves in my life? It's a toughie, and a solution must be found posthaste because book-shopping blitzes were made while I traveled the Southwest this summer.
     I've surveyed our modest library for a book/bookcase ratio, taking into consideration the physical size of  the books housed. Standard-sized hardback occupies most of the collection with a smattering of over-sized volumes. Soft-covers and paperbacks are to be found in the mix––mostly of the literary-journal variety. I also have a few shelves of autographed books, first editions, and a few vintage volumes in fragile condition.
     Bookcases have been designated (whole or partial) by genre––fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, art, art history, gardens and gardening, the natural world, and travel. The problem is the amount of books continually expands and there's not much space for buying a new bookshelf. Tempting as it is,  floor stacking is out of the question, as is building an addition to the house.
     The options, then, for stacking the new armload of books brought home are limited: do I convert some shelves from vertical stacking to horizontal stacking, or do I combine both methods and have a jumbled arrangement.

     I prefer vertical stacking, actually. For one, it conveys a sense of order, and second, it makes it easier to take a book off a shelf. This option lends itself well to the genre organizing of my housed literary delights, BUT you get fewer books on the shelves.
     Horizontal, on the other hand, lends itself to housing like-minded books together, and gives more space for added books. I accommodate more paperbacks and soft-covers with this method, but it conveys a slightly disordered appearance (it's all in the eye of the beholder, though, isn't it?), AND it's a tad more difficult to retrieve a book from the middle or the bottom.

     I grew attached to the vertical method. I grew attached to the horizontal method. Et voila! The Jumbled Effect! There's still a method to my "madness," but I've squeezed more space from existing book shelves that now occupy every room in my house. Also, I made an aesthetic sacrifice, and it seems to be working––for the reasons noted above. The outcome is that I have found the way my books are placed has become more interesting, and it gives my shelves more of a quirky personality. At the front of the shelf, I've placed small-framed photos or objects to create a still life. Am I going "decorative" shelving? I don't think so. Photos and meaningful objects need their display space as well.

     What do the aesthetes, the conservationists, have to say about this? This is what I found from the American Institute for Conservation of Historical and Artistic Works :
It is extremely important that books stood vertically on shelves are squarely upright and firmly supported by neighboring books or by bookends. Leaning at an angle puts stress on the entire book structure, deforming the spine and the joints where the covers are attached. Bookends must be stable and smooth so as not to damage the covers. Books should not be packed together so tightly,however, that they are difficult to remove without causing damage. Large,oversized books are best laid horizontally in stacks of no more than two or three high. Protective pads, such as squares of polyester felt, may be placed between stacked books to prevent them from rubbing.
     So having read the conservationists' point of view, you knew this was coming: how do YOUR books stack? But before you answer that, take a glimpse at this animated clip of one person's view of organizing a bookcase. After watching the short clip, let me know your answer of how you stack your books.
Organizing the Bookcase