15 September 2008

Books: Home libraries are in again

Readers of Tracing the Tribe understand books. Most of us can't walk or drive past a bookstore without sneaking a peek.

Do we have room for the books we already have? What about future volumes?

When we went off to Iran in 1970, all our books came along and lived in huge bookcases. When we returned to the US, they came with us to Miami, and then to Los Angeles. Each of them should have received frequent flyer miles!

In Southern Nevada, I turned a downstairs bedroom into a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall expanse of shelves, with a built-in desk by the window.

For the first time, I had a focused book space. Genealogy - full sets of genealogy journals, magazines and big reference books. Cookbooks. Languages. History. Old textbooks (true bibliophiles never discard books!).

I could scoot around in a wheeled desk chair to quickly reach almost anything I needed. The planning concept was that I would also quickly replace the books on the shelves; the reality was very different - I still had piles of books on the floor for different projects.

Of course, there were cookbooks in the family room near the kitchen, there were books upstairs in the bedroom - I'm always reading several concurrent books. And don't even ask about our daughter's room - she was also a confirmed reader from an early age.

Here, in Tel Aviv, I could easily use another apartment just for my books, and I only brought about seven or eight book cartons - the rest are in storage. Over the years, those few cartons have grown exponentially. An extra shelf unit in the kitchen (cookbooks), several in my office (mostly genealogy-related, conference syllabi, gen mags, etc.), bookcases in the living room (everything else). More books in the bedroom. My husband's books are on the coffee table.

Selecting those few cartons was a horrible experience - how does one choose which book to take to a new country? It was like choosing which "favorite" child to take on a journey.

The Wall Street Journal's online edition at WSJ.com has an interesting library story by June Fletcher, "Why Libraries Are Back in Style: It's Not Because of Books; They're 'Memory Rooms' Or TV-Free Private Spaces."

Although reading rates are down and owners may do most of their reading online, there's a resurgence in home libraries. The article and an accompanying podcast covers a variety of related angles: People turn to books during economic turndowns, Oprah Winfrey's magazine cover, popular builder's upgrades, books as design accents, and comments from architects and designers.

The latest annual consumer survey by the National Association of Home Builders indicated that 63% of home buyers wanted a library or considered one essential, with even mass-market builders adding them into house plans with rolling ladders and circular stairs.

An economic downturn means people turn to the classics according to a Long Island interior designer. Libraries are comforting during these times because they project coziness and comfort.

WSJ.com is also featuring a podcast with June Fletcher, discussing the resurgence of libraries. A Virginia architect calls libraries "memory rooms," and in addition to books, include photographs, family treasures and more.

The newest trend is "his and hers" libraries, so each person can keep their collections separate.

While I believe books should look like books, there are some designers who look for books with fancy bindings to match their client's color schemes, no matter the content.

Another trend: Some mass-market builders are replacing dens (or offices) which are redundant in many home which feature huge family rooms or great rooms, while others are putting the library on landings between the first and second floors. One Florida builder indicates that half his clients want library upgrades.

Some builders create mini-libraries throughout homes: under stairs, lofts, alcoves and along hallways. There's even a demand for children's room bookcases as they often have more books, trophies and collections than their parents.

And one person interviewed has a philosophy up there with mine:

A shopping center developer building a 10,000 square foot home in Memphis doesn't know how many books he owns - an estimate is several thousand. He has kept almost everything he's bought since college, his three grown sons' college texts, children's books for his five grandchildren and more. Nearly every wall is filled with volumes.

His decorator wanted him to recover them so their multi-colored spines wouldn't clash with the color scheme. He refused - good for him! - saying "The books are my priority."

1 comment:

  1. I love my books, and even a few magazines I've had since 1965. They are a comfort no matter how many stacks they are in.

    Glad to see I'm back in vogue.

    I'll bet we could find a house in Seattle that would hold all your books. Let me know when to start looking!