PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
How will we be remembered after we die?
An interesting article in a library journal recently addressed that topic when a librarian had the task of going through his mother’s bookshelves following her death at age 92.
His siblings were in charge of the furniture and business records, while he (the librarian) was given the task of sorting through her books.
He had never given it much thought, but our bookshelves reveal a lot about our life and our interests.
He found that her books told her life story in literature.
In the basement was a large wooden box nailed shut, and when opened, was found to be a complete set of Bobbsey Twins and Bunny Brown stories, popular in the 1920s and 1930s. All were inscribed by her grandmother and the year they were given.
The bookshelves in the living room contained a collection of Heritage Press classics with their attractive spines, inscribed with the name and date of their acquisition. They were dusty, and had not been moved since their initial reading.
In the adjacent sun room were a haphazard pile of spiritual books, and religious publications, next to the chair she sat as she pondered her terminal illness of the past three years.
The King James Bible was on her nightstand, with recent letters folded into the front of the big book.
Hiding in the attic was an extensive selection of New Age works covering 50 years of publication. All of the books contained post cards, notes, and letters saved over the years and tucked into the folds of books.
As the author noted, he was glad mom came from the era of glue and paper books; for had she been an eBook person, all that would remain would be “nothing more than fleeting electronic files.
This article got me to thinking about my own book collection and what it reveals about me. My first thought was that I better “clean house” to make my own image appear to be an organized librarian.
My office at the library contains all those orphaned books of no particular subject, only that they have attractive bindings and lovely spines. Guess I had better do a cleanup and really look at each one to see if they really need to be there.
At home, I turned around my wing-backed chair to look directly at my bookshelves. A lot of history books, both local and national adorn the lower shelves, with some biographical titles about President Harry Truman.
Many books given to me as gifts, usually still signed fill the shelves including a Bible stories book from my Aunt Frieda years ago. My father’s journal that covers 1944-1949 still shows the repairs I made to the spine before he gave it to me.
When asked why he stopped writing in 1949, he simple said “I lost interest, and all I wrote about was the weather.”
Some books I have never read, and others I have read several times. There is a copy of “Tilton Territory” given to me by Robert Richardson, which I read in 2007 as a diversion from taking chemotherapy.
The big King James Bible was given to me while in college by Bernard Carter, dad’s cousin, since he had no descendants and “something would just throw it away, except you Craig….” (my middle name)
Books about trains fill one shelf, as people aware of my train interest always pick up books for me at yard sales and bookstores.
Tucked in the filing cabinets next to the shelf are my genealogy files, accumulated by my mother over a 25 year period as she worked to complete her DAR application. The information has been shared with countless relatives over the years, and enhanced when new information is found.
So, regardless of how large or small your book collection is, look and see what it says and will say about you some day. You never know what you might be saying to the next generation about you!