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July 23, 2004

On vacation

Well, I'm going on vacation. I won't necessarily be away from home, but I won't be updating this blog again until August 2nd. I know, all 3 of my readers will be deeply upset, but sometimes a guy needs a break to relax and refresh. So, I've been thinking of what I should leave you with. What kind of pithy, well thought out commentary can I leave you with that will satisfy your Greet Machine needs until August 2nd, and actually make you return when that time comes ... unfortunately I can't think of anything. So, I will leave you with some comments about one of my favorite topics of conversation, buying books.

You might think that being a librarian that I would be in favor of buying books, or that I would have a large collection of books in my home. Not so on either count. Personally I think that by being a librarian I have given up my right to buy books all together. And therefore I don't. Obviously this saves me a lot of money, but it also requires that I use one of the greatest intellectual resources provided by this great land, our public and academic library system. Do you realize just how many books you have at your disposal right now by virute of living in the Twin Cities area? First of all, we have the U of M Libraries, which by the way is the 17th largest research library in the nation. Next we have the public library systems of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, not to mention the city systems of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Hennepin County alone consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally in terms of book circulation. They have a lot of books and they check a lot of them out. We are literally overwhelmed by access to information. Having said all of this, why on Earth does anyone buy books in this area?

Buying books is such a waste of money! We should at all times use libraries to satisfy our research and recreational reading needs. And if you say the library never has anything you want to read ... that just is plain ignorant. Right now in the library of your choice sits a book that if you read it you would think it was the best, most inspirational book you have ever read. You just have to find it. My strategy is to find a lot of books, and just put a ton of them on hold. If I don't like one I always know that I've got either more coming or more already waiting for me. How do I find a lot of books to put on hold? Excellent question! There actually is a place for bookstores in my reading strategy, especially Amazon.com. What I do is look up a book in Amazon that I really liked. Then, on the page that features that book, I scroll down to the Listmania section and check out a list from a reader. Lists from Listmania usually include other books somebody thinks you'll enjoy besides the one you initially searched for. Truly it works like a charm. When I find a book on a list that I think I might enjoy I go back to the catalogs of both the U of M Libraries and Hennepin County and wherever it is I put the book on hold. I'm so fond of this method that I wrote a web page that strips out everything from Amazon except for the lists and other recommendations they make for books. I call it the Serendipity Project. Check it out and let me know what you think (it is pretty basic right now and needs some work).

Anyway, that is how I find books to read. You might be wondering if there is any time where I feel actually buying a book is OK. Yes, I will grudgingly admit that there are times when purchasing a book is warranted. So, I leave you with the 7 Rules of Book Buying:

  1. You may buy any book you will read at least 5 times.
    This is a tough rule, but I can't justify buying a book especially if I'm only going to read it once. That's ridiculous! The next time you get the urge to buy a book you know you are going to read less than five times, stop yourself, save yourself some money, and go to the library and check the book out! In fact, take that money and save it for something special, donate it to charity, or take it to zoo, buy some sardines, and feed them to the seals.

  2. You may buy reference books.
    Of course reference books such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, manuals, field guides, travel guides, etc. will probably be read more than five times. Although you can get a lot of this material on the WWW now, so buy these books only when absolutely necessary!

  3. You may buy books for a university/college course.
    You could try and check these out from the library, or ILL them, but most likely the due date will be before the end of the class. You may also want to highlight them, so I suppose you can go ahead and buy them.

  4. You may buy a book if you are planning on donating a large collection of them to the library.
    Collecting books is a tough one for me. When people come to my house they are usually surprised to see that I have very few books. They ask, "Don't librarians usually have a lot of books?" And I say, "Yeah, I have a huge collection. Around 6 million volumes. You may have heard of it: The University of Minnesota Libraries?" But I suppose some of you have rather large collections of books. If this is the case, make sure you are buying books in order to someday benefit a library.

  5. You may buy books to use as decorations, but make sure this benefits a library.
    This one is especially tough for me. But I do concede that books can sometimes spruce up the interior of your home. However, I do have a rather restrictive rule about this one. You can only buy books for decoration if you get them from a library book sale. That way the books you buy will have a direct monetary benefit to the library you are purchasing them from.

  6. You may buy a book if you are going to get it signed by the author.
    This one is the only "no brainer" of the bunch.

  7. You may buy a book if you are buying a book written by a friend.
    If I had a friend that wrote a book, I would certainly show my support by buying the book. I may even get it signed by the author!

So there you have it. Chew on that for about a week. I'll be back!

Posted by snackeru at July 23, 2004 10:36 PM | Libraries


Well, okay then, have a fabulous time. and no, I haven't read your entry for the day yet.


Posted by: Susannah Tambien at July 23, 2004 4:34 PM

Great post about the library! Walking into Wilson is usually the best part of any day on campus - just thinking about all the knowledge that is contained there.

But I still like buying books. I have some specialized reference books (plant and garden related)and I like to have my favorite novels on hand in case I want to read them in the middle of the night. I left about 2/3 of my books in storage in New England, thinking that I could get whatever I wanted out here - and I regret that I didn't pack more books to bring here.

Posted by: Sno-Cones at July 26, 2004 10:13 AM

So ... what is it that you have against authors? They have kids, stomachs, and other legitimate needs, just like you. I can think of any number of things that I'd rather not support with my purchasing patterns. At the very least, relax your final criteria to define "friend" as an author whose work inspires you to want to know or support him or her, even if you've never met. I'd rather buy a book for that reason and try to figure a workaround for a required textbook.

Posted by: Oldstuffer at July 30, 2004 10:15 AM

Thanks for the comment. My rules for book buying are really written for librarians since if no one bought any books no one would probably write any books. Librarians shouldn't buy books, though. If anyone should be using a library it should be a librarian. All I really wanted to do with that post, though, is encourage library use and I think I accomplished that.

Sno-Cones, I liked your post about blogging. I'll probably be commenting on that later.


Posted by: Shane at August 2, 2004 10:53 AM

Ah, but I am a librarian, and I still want to support authors I admire - maybe so they'll continue to write books so there can still be libraries. It's that great web of life thing.

Posted by: Oldstuffer at August 6, 2004 3:58 PM

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