The Evolving Library Problem

Mary Beard’s short musing on how to tidy up and organise a sprawling library, ends with the fear that physical print libraries may be a thing of the past anyway. I think she’s wrong there.

Libraries are an infrequent but recurring theme of mine, and my own library is at that sad state of being so disorganised, following a couple of years of not-quite-complete house “remodelling”, that I actually have the same problem. I need to do something.

ISBN ordering seems arcane but, as with all good information management, meaningless index numbers are better than any other coding of what is meaningful or significant about the objects. Books that fall outside ISBN numbering can add a dummy “My-ISBN” prefix and follow the same conventions.

Extensible tagging can be used to add your own significance to the indexed database. After all, as well as having enough space to organise and evolve, such significance will evolve as our agendas develop over time,. And, there will be physical constraints like “oversize” shelves for individual books that disrupt efficient average shelf sizes. Having an indexed database ensure these kind of exceptions can also be handled with additional tags. The bonus is that using ISBN’s can also link you to other global library meta-data about the books you own. ISBN is the right way.

I’m not quite at Karl Lagerfeld’s “sideways library” state, but a good 40% of my books are currently in random stacks for assorted long-forgotten temporary reasons, and mostly not on or anywhere near the actually library shelves..


Also published on Medium.

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