Someone asked me recently what they should do with their books after they pass on? Many of us have extensive libraries in our care that have taken years to create. Any bibliophile can take you into their library and speak with love and reverence of the books they have collected and own. If you come into my library, I can tell where the books on the shelves in my library come from. Many, of course, were purchased on Amazon. But others were bought in bulk at used book stores, or yard sales, church bazaars, or sales at local colleges, universities or public libraries. Friends have given me boxes of books as they downscaled and/or moved. What they couldn’t take with them, they gave to me knowing I would value them, and would take care of them. Many of the books in my collection have been signed by the author after I attended one of their lectures. Some of the books on my shelves I love and can expound on, ad nauseum. Many others are awaiting the fortuitous day I will have the time to pull them off the shelf and spend luxurious hours reading. I told a friend one time that my unread books haunt me. I feel like they are staring at me all the time wanting me to read them. He said, “Just think of them as old friends you haven’t met yet. Someday you will.” I hold on to that promise.
A true bibliophile is like that.
Our books are not mere paper and ink. They are little islands of knowledge and adventure.
The authors we’ve never met, are like friends who have revealed the most intimate details of their lives to us. We value those revelations. Whenever crisis has crashed on my doorstep, I go to my library and find the books I know will soothe my aching wounds, and quell my quivering hands. At those times, my books become a lifeline.
Along the road of life I’ve met two women who gave up their libraries. One of them I met a month after she had taken the drastic step as she moved across the country to attend grad school. Why get rid of your books, I asked? Why not just put them in storage? I watched both women go through a grieving process as they spoke lovingly of one of their favorite books only to realize they were no longer the owner of said book. It was painful. I have no plans to get rid of my books. My sister always talks about purging and downscaling. I understand that perspective, but acknowledge that as long as I’m here on this green earth, there are certain things I want near me, and my books are pretty high up on the list (along with lots of favorite clothes).
Considering the great love affair we have with our books, the question remains, what do we do with them after we have passed. If you make no provisions, your children will probably take what they want, invite others in the family to take what they want, then give the rest to Salvation Army. Instead, you could will your books to a local library. Depending on what’s in your collection, you could consider donating them to a university, perhaps your alma mater, a college or a local public library. Of course if you think your children might be interested in the collection, you could stipulate that whatever they don’t want will go to the library. You could also select different libraries for different parts of your collection – the history books, science books, and computer books to go to a college library while the trashy novels you love could go to a public library.
What will happen when they get to the library? The Acquisitions Librarian will go through the books to determine if there is something that will fit within the scope of their collection policy. All libraries have a collection policy that stipulates what types of books they will collect and what kinds they will not. If there are books in the collection that the library doesn’t want, but they know of another library that collects that kind of material, they will pass it on to the appropriate library. The remainder of the collection may be sold cheaply to their patrons, they might be sold to a used book store, or they may be sent overseas to fill the libraries of third world countries in desperate need of good books. In one way or another, the books that have brought so much joy to our lives, will hopefully find their way into the hands of a new caretaker who will value them as much as we have.