One thing is certain about the occult community: we to like books. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us have at least twenty books on paganism and the occult. But what about those who own more than a hundred magic volumes or more? You know those people whose shelves bear witness to their insatiable appetite for knowledge? How the hell do we organize it all? ! Read on for some professional librarian tips for organizing your massively magical and mundane menageries.
Did you know…that every time a disorganized collection of books is allowed to exist, a librarian loses his or her voice? Chuthhhhhh is our desperate cry for help!
“Organization” implies efficiency and connection between related elements in a structure. Libraries are made up of small collections of documents that make up a larger, singular collection (the library). In the same way, the human body is an organ composed of smaller organs (liver, lungs, brain, heart, etc.). Everything, whether in the body or in the library, has a purpose and is related in some way to the whole organ/collection.
So, let’s start by asking yourself these questions:
1) For whom am I organizing this library?
2) Do I own more than 50 books in the same genre?
3) Is it currently difficult to quickly find the books I need?
4) The most important question: Do I really care to organize this collection of books?
If yes, continue.
Step 1: Separate fiction from non-fiction
The first step to regaining control of your excessive book hoard is to separate your titles into fiction or non-fiction.
What is fiction? In this context, fiction is any form of literature based on imaginary events or people.
Do magic books, occult grimoires or books on witchcraft and paganism count as fiction? Technically, no. Ask a person who subscribes to a faith that considers all other belief systems to be false and their answer may be different. However, in Library Land, books written about cultural practices and beliefs are not fiction unless the author intends to write religious fiction.
Step 2: Sort by gender
Once you have separated your titles by Fiction or Nonfiction, sort them by genre. Fiction and non-fiction genres include:
Genres of fiction: Literature, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Westerns (there is a huge paperback market for this genre!), Detective, etc.
Non-fiction genres: Biography and autobiographies, Reference works (such as encyclopaedias, dictionaries, indexes, maps and manuals), History, Sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.), Philosophy, Religion (excluding religious fiction), Self- assistance, textbooks, etc.
In the Magical Library, books can be organized by subject: Herbalism, Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft, Psychic Development, Crystals and Stones, Ceremonial Magic, Druidism, Sabbatical Crafting, and the list goes on.
Step 3: Sort by author then title OR author then publication date
This step is pretty self-explanatory. So, you’ve sorted your library by fiction and non-fiction, then by genre. The next step is to organize these genres by author’s last name.
If your collection contains prolific authors (authors who have written many books), it may be useful to go further by sorting first by author then by title OR by author then by publication date.
Tip to consider: Sorting by author then publication date can be useful if you have a series of books, such as Christopher Penczak’s Temple of Witchcraft series. If you sorted Penczak Temple series by title instead of publication date, the books would be out of order, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Step 4: Take the chaotic approach
The average chaotic book collector throws their books in a few piles around the house. You know those people who use books as paperweights, coasters, doorstops, and weapons of relatively minor destruction. These people are the honey badgers of the world of bibliophiles. There are stacks of books on the bedside table, in a tote bag, in the closet, on the kitchen table, and in the car. Maybe these people have shelves, but there’s no rhyme or reason to organizing their collection.
And you know what? It’s great too.
Our private book collections are intimate insights into our hearts and minds. They reveal our interests, our insecurities, our desires, our beliefs, and the paths we have traveled to obtain knowledge about our world. How or not we choose to organize and display our books is a personal choice and reflects who we are as people – on some level, at least. Many of us take pride in organizing our collections, even if we are the only ones using them.
But does being the sole user of a collection mean that it should not be cared for and taken care of? Absolutely not. Treat yourself. But also treat me and all the other librarians out there knowing that you are a shepherd of wayward book collections. Doing so is like leaving offerings to the spirits.
Did you know…that for every collection of books organized, a librarian gets another tattooed under his cardigan? You say “book sleeve” and we say “arm sleeve”.
Follow me for more tips @thegardnerianlibrarian