This summer I spent a few weeks rearranging the furniture in our apartment. A big part of that effort included reorganizing our bookshelves. My methods for organizing my collection had changed since studying librarianship and, in particular, cataloguing. I’ve always enjoyed organizing, but now I wanted to make sure there was meaning behind the way I arranged the titles. Did I want them fully alphabetized or did it make more sense to arrange them by subject, colour or size?
All this thought around how to organize my bookshelves made me wonder: how do other librarians organize their own collections?
First on the bill is Heather Buchansky. Heather is currently working in the Reference and Research Services Department at Robarts Library at the University of Toronto. Her title is Online Project Librarian, which entails working on projects such as creating online training support for library staff and students.
Heather is a graduate of U of T’s iSchool whose previous library experience includes working as a student library assistant in the reference department at Robarts and in the Dentistry Library at U of T. Before entering the world of libraries, she worked in sales for a large educational publisher. “Working there put me in contact with a lot of librarians, and getting to know more about what their positions involved made me realize I’d rather be on the other side of the table,” says Heather.
Heather’s personal library is quite small and she blames this on the convenience of the public library. “Growing up, I was a 10 minute walk from a public library, which I would visit on a weekly basis. So my love of libraries, and realizing I could take items out instead of buying them, began early,” she says. “I lived overseas for a couple of years as well, and knowing that I would eventually have to ship a bunch of books back to Canada, or just give them away, made me learn to live with less stuff…including books.”
She is patient about getting new books to read, and doesn’t mind sitting on a waiting list to read the newest titles. The deadlines that come with reading books from the library rather than off her own shelf are useful because they push Heather to finish a book. “I have the odd fiction title I’ve purchase that can sit on my shelf for years until I decide to read it.”
To keep her collection so small, Heather has specific criteria for the titles that do get to sit on her shelves: “To be a book in my library, you must fit into one of the following categories: short stories, travel guides, cook book (although I stopped buying those and get recipes online) or non-fiction/reference titles. These are books I will re-read sections of over and over again – (nerd alert!) I can spend a good hour leafing through an atlas.”
Now that she works at one of the largest libraries in the country, Heather borrows most of her books Robarts. “And since I’m here every day, there is no excuse for having overdue books. It can happen from time to time…at least the money goes to a good cause.”