One thing is for certain about the occult community: we love books. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us own at least a couple dozen books on paganism and occult. But what about those who own upwards of a hundred or more magical volumes? You know, those folks whose bookshelves stand as testament to their insatiable appetite for knowledge? How the hell do we keep it all organized?! Read on for a few librarian pro-tips for organizing your massively magical and mundane menageries.
Did you know…that every time a disorganized book collection is allowed to exist, a librarian loses their voice? Shhhhhhhh is our desperate cry for help!
“Organization” implies efficiency and connection between related items in a structure. Libraries are made up of smaller collections of materials that make up one larger, singular collection (the library). In the same way, the human body is an organ made up of smaller organs (liver, lungs, brain, heart, etc.). Each thing, whether it’s in the body or in the library, serves a purpose and is connected in some way to the larger organ/collection as a whole.
So, let’s begin by asking yourself these questions:
1) For whom am I organizing this library?
2) Do I own more than 50 books in a single genre?
3) Is it currently challenging to quickly find the books I need?
4) The most important question: Do I actually give a shit about organizing this collection of books?
If yes, proceed.
Step #1: Separate Fiction from Nonfiction
The first step to taking back control from your overstepping book hoard is to separate your titles into Fiction or Nonfiction.
What is Fiction? In this context, fiction is any form of literature based on imaginary events or people.
Do magical books, occult grimoires, or books on witchcraft and paganism count as fiction? Technically, no. Ask a person who subscribes to a faith that discounts all other belief systems as false and their answer may be different. However, in Library Land, books written about cultural practices and beliefs are nonfiction unless the author intended to write religious fiction.
Step #2: Sort By Genre
Once you’ve separated your titles by either Fiction or Nonfiction, sort them by their genres. Fiction and Nonfiction genres include:
Fiction genres: Literature, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Westerns (there’s a huge paperback market for this genre!), Crime, etc.
Nonfiction genres: Biography & Autobiographies, Reference books (such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, maps, and manuals), History, Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, etc.), Philosophy, Religion (excluding religious fiction), Self-Help, Textbooks, etc.
In the magical library, books can be organized by topic: herbalism, Wicca, traditional witchcraft, psychic development, crystals & stones, ceremonial magic, Druidry, Sabbatic Craft, 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 Nonfiction and then by genre. The next step is to organize those genres by author’s last name.
If your collection contains prolific authors (authors who have written many books) then it may be worth going the extra step to sort first by Author then by Title OR by Author then Publication Date.
Tip to Consider: Sorting by Author then Publication Date may be useful if you own series of books, such as Christopher Penczak’s Temple of Witchcraft series. If you sorted Penczak’s Temple series by Title instead of Pub Date then 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 chucks their books into a few piles around the house. You know, those people who use books as paper weights, coasters, doorstops, and weapons of relatively minor destruction. These folks are the honey badgers of the book collecting world. There are piles of books on the nightstand, in a tote bag, in the closet, on the kitchen table, and in the car. Maybe these people have bookshelves, but there’s no rhyme or reason to the organization of their collection.
And you know what? That’s rad, too.
Our private book collections are intimate glimpses into our hearts and minds. They reveal our interests, our insecurities, our desires, our beliefs, and the avenues we’ve walked down to obtain knowledge about our world. How or whether 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’re the only ones to use them.
But does being the sole user of a collection mean that it shouldn’t be cared for and tended to? Absolutely not. Treat yourself. But also treat me and every other librarian out there to the knowledge that you are a shepherd of wayward book collections. To do so is like leaving offerings to spirits.
Did you know…that for every organized book collection out there, a librarian gets another tattoo to be hidden under their cardigans? You say “book sleeve” and we say “arm sleeve.”
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