Do we still have personal libraries anymore?

Are private collections falling out of favour?

Growing up my family had shelves either side of our fireplace that had a lot of reference material. Novels and other fun reading material was generally kept in our bedrooms, with books for general knowledge or research kept in a central place for all to access.

Teaching in today’s climate has seen information shift online. The issue with that is whether or not that information is credible. Physical books have generally undergone a string of editors, fact checkers, and the like before reaching the shelves; where online content may not have undergone such scrutiny. *cough* fake news *cough* Not many of my students cited actual books as their reference material, and I always have to ask how they can prove the information they are presenting is true as an exerscise. Less and less we are seeing people build their own personal libraries.

Granted you can construct a virtual one. A collection of collated reference material that has been traditionally published in e-book format. Which is great for mobility, but it’s hard to have multiple books open at different parts to compare and contrast the content. Especially when you get to a more involved project drawing from several sources at a time.

Today books seem to be decorative quite a lot. An aesthetic. Displayed on coffee tables, colour coded with décor on shelves. A way to say ‘look at me I’m intelligent,’ whether or not you have even cracked the spine or not. I’ve seen bookstagrammers and book bloggers posting pictures of books and have yet to read them. There’s nothing wrong with this – I making my point about building and utilising a personal library, not just making pretty picture content.

There is always the public library for accessing material, but I still value a small functioning personal reference library at home. Recipe books, first aid books, a dictionary, a thesaurus, guides, manuals, maps… you never know one day the power might be out, and no access to the internet when you need information. Plus, I subscribe to the adage that stimulating as many senses as you can when assimilating knowledge aids retention. A physical book with the tactile sensation of the page, the act of looking up information and flipping through pages adds an element to help focus your attention. You can hold and touch an object instead of staring at a screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing online content, I’m simply wondering if anyone values a physical collection of books at home. I refer to my university textbooks and periodicals occasionally. I love having a book open as a reference when writing an article or working on a novel. When ghost writing content for clients, I also have may tomes open for ease of reference. Maybe it’s simply what works for me. My preferences for a physical book, my love of collecting and creating my own personal library… I know a lot of my students give me a funny look when I express my love of books at home. Bish you crazy. Why you want to lug all those books everywhere? Why are you contributing to deforestation with the need to populate your shelves with something you will only use a handful of times?

Personally, I read the books I own a number of times, I lend them out, use the reference books on a near daily basis – especially for research. Because my writing and reading activity is a part of my work and leisure time. I guess for people for whom reading and writing have different priorities in their lives see personal libraries as frivolous. A luxury.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a personal collection of books other than novels in your home. Do you see value in having a home library?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

3 thoughts on “Do we still have personal libraries anymore?

  1. Katie @ Wandering Reader says:

    While I don’t have a big personal reference section like I did in school (hello, entire Encyclopedia Brittanica), I do keep some of them. Especially ones related to work and interests. But I don’t necessarily need them on a regular basis like, I’m guessing, you do.

    We can agree on the preference for physical books over e-books though. Something about that tactile experience makes it… MORE. I have a Kindle but if given the choice, I prefer real pages. Perfect examples of this would be cookbooks. I may find a recipe online to try but if I love it, I’ll print it and put in a binder. That way I can make notes in case I try variations. I need and want that physical copy.

    Overall, fiction books do dominate my shelves but they’re mixed in with a smattering of autobiographies and historical texts.

    • femaleinferno says:

      I definitely prefer physical books and have little nook libraries all over the house… my dream is to build a large library to keep everything in. Just waiting for a windfall or a major signing bonus 😉

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