Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Priorities

I'm going to classify the books in my house on a usability scale. This first part is mostly the books I've acquired for the juveniles in the house since the books my husband and I keep have a different scale. (that scale is below)

In case you're wondering WHY I'm doing this, I'm trying to figure out how to get rid of the deadweight in this house and I'm afraid that some of it is books that haven't ever been read by anyone. I come from a bibliophile home and I love the look and atmosphere of books, but I'm realizing that to respect the ones that are truly treasures around here I have to let go the ones that aren't, no matter how much I wish they were.

  • At the first level are the childrens' books that simply get read no matter what -- the fun picture books, the easy series books. I don't have to do much. The kids find them and devour them.
  • At the second level are the books that need to be introduced, but once they are introduced it doesn't take too much more. These would be classics, saints bios, things like that. They might be a bit hesitant to pick them up on their own but they do enjoy them once I've suggested it. Or sometimes these become read-alouds and then are accessible enough after that to become first-level books.
  • At the third level are the books that require introduction AND follow-through of some kind. Perhaps it's an experiment book that needs materials or an art book that needs art supplies to make it useful. Or perhaps it's the kind of book that is harder to read so I have to encourage/assign readings, even though it's often basically interesting. A lot of the Ambleside non-fiction books are like that for the kids. And some homeschool materials are like that, the simpler ones that aren't too hard to actually do.
  • At the fourth level are books that require introduction, follow-through and actual driving. These are the books that aren't very appealing to the kids intrinsically for whatever reason. Often they are homeschool curricula, the more complex kind where you have to prepare a bunch of stuff and learn the method and then teach the kid how to use the material. Or they are project books that require preparation and follow-through in a subject my kids aren't really interested in.
The thing is that the fourth level books rarely get used in my house. These levels of complexity almost seem exponential so by the time you get to the fourth level it's about 9 times as difficult as the first level. (I know that sounds like I don't know how to do squares but the first level is "0" difficulty so I go from there). I've gotten rid of the vast majority of those already because I know by now they just sit on my shelves.

Of the third level books -- most aren't likely to be used unless either I or the kid is very motivated. So I probably only need a few of these around, the core ones. Otherwise the whole lot ends up being deadweight on the shelves because when there's too much of something, my kids and I just don't pay attention to it anymore.

Most of our books should be the kind that don't need much push, I think, and then the third level books should be the Really Important or Very Satisfying kind. For example, the Ambleside books are satisfying. And some homeschool materials that teach core subjects are fairly important as well.

If we do have a fourth level material around it should be something I really have fun with. Like Spell to Write and Read. Or Mary Daly's Whole Book of Diagrams. These I just LIKE.

The scale for MY books goes like this:

Level One -- indispensable bestfriendsforever books, the kind of books I'd like to have with me on the legendary desert island.

Level Two -- pretty nice to have around. The kind of books that make good companions to hang out with... maybe Catholic books on various topics, or classic novels, that kind of thing. A lot of times these books get read by my teens and young adults as well. But every now and then I can look them over with a critical eye and make sure they are still pulling their weight.

Level Three -- niche books. They were useful or enjoyable at one time, or I hoped they would be but the time has passed, or I have more than I really need (my pregnancy and parenting your toddler type books, dh's chess books, extra cookbooks). Those can go. (I don't mess around with my husband's books unless he hands them over to me to discard).

A similar scale could be used for videos, tapes, CDs and DVDs but I haven't got to those yet because we don't have as many and they don't take up so much room.


  1. We homeschool as well, and love books. Last year I finally got rid of the books my kids had outgrown as well as the books I'd had for several years but no one would read. We estimated it was somewhere between six and seven hundred books. A few times since then I've thought to hand someone a book...but we'd gotten rid of it. For the most part though, it was a good move. It cleared up much needed space and made the books we did keep easier to find. Through the process I was reminded that we should hold onto material things only lightly...even the books.

  2. Wow!
    You are a brave gal!
    Looking at your rating scale, I started looking in my minds eye over my incredibly large library - but then, I started having heart palpitations and difficulty breathing - so I gave up. :0)
    We are moving again soon, so it is the time I actually start the big purge in preparation.
    Thanks for a little more food for thought.............

  3. Yes, indeed, it's the hardest part of decluttering! I have some breathing difficulties when I think about it, too. So I just start one bite at a time. Finding "homes" for them through Paperback Swap and Amazon Marketplace is a help -- my biggest fear is that they'll end up in dumps so I'm always pleased when an old friend finds a new home (cue in Toy Story theme song....).

  4. Willa
    I like your classification alot, I'm pondering this. (I'm embarrassed to admit to you I just bought more bookcases)

  5. I like your classification system. Unfortunately for me I think my biggest category is Books That I Got From My Paperback Wish List and Haven't Even Read Yet But Might Be Wonderful (Or Junk). LOL :) You've inspired me (yet again) to get off my duff today and go through *something* - maybe our craft stuff or a book case.

  6. LOL Amy -- I forgot that category. It keeps growing too!

    Erin, we STILL don't really have empty bookshelves, which goes to show we really did have too many books before this. I'm certainly not down to the bare bones yet : )


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!