“I Cannot Live In A World Without Books” – Jefferson

“Your Library Is Your Paradise”
-Erasmus

I suspect that the question now is… can anyone live in a world without computers? Has the ascent of the keyboard created the demise of the physical book? Is extinction in the cards? Well, yes and no. Perhaps, for the average paperback with little provenance, this may be the case. But, not so for the rare book. In fact, I predict quite the opposite. As the book art form grows increasingly rarer, the value of rare books will appreciate.

The gentleman’s private library has always been a haven where one gleans a sense of intellectual spirituality at home. Surrounded by a wealth of knowledge, the collector sees his library as a sanctuary from the labors and toils of the day, a place where he finds serenity from the outside world – a halcyon visit to another time and place. As the collector Jack Holmes expresses, “What I find the most satisfying about being a book collector is the responsibility I am taking on by being the temporary custodian of a particular literary treasure. There are only so many copies of Johnson’s Dictionary out there, or Moby Dick, or Oliver Twist in the parts, and to own one of them is to not only to hold history in your hand (which is exciting in and of itself) but it is also to preserve that history for the future. To play a role in making sure that rare books and first editions survive is something I take seriously.” Heather O’Donnell, proprietor of Honey and Wax Books, believes that “In a curious twist as ownership of the printed books becomes a choice, rather than the default option, people who’ve never thought of themselves as “book collectors” increasing catch themselves in an act that can only be described as “collecting books.”

Rare books are not only investments, they are treasures, indeed. Their provenance tells a great story, lending both intrigue and intellectual value to the tome. Who owned it, when it was printed, who printed it, where was it printed, whose binding adorns it, and whose notes annotate it – all these and more are some of the seminal questions to be asked about a rare book. Heather adroitly sums it up: “As artifacts, books communicate more than words on their pages: in type and design, materials and construction, they remind us that ours is not the only historical moment. They satisfy our desire to own and handle well-made objects, to live among them, to give each other something lasting, rather than simply clicking “share.”

There are several important characteristics to be considered in designing a rare book library. As a designer, the most prominent categories are the room’s lighting, air quality, cabinetry (shelving), finishes, and overall architectural plan. As the book becomes a more arcane form, these specific conditions will define and determine the longevity of the collection. If there is one characteristic to which rare books respond, it is to the stability, consistency, and beauty of it’s environment.

Lighting: The sun is a friend to sunbathers, but an enemy to books. Natural light can lead to a book’s disintegration. Many libraries, both public and personal, have now become spaces with few windows, limiting permeation by the sun. For best results, light precautions need to begin with a UV film over each window, protected by additional layers of draperies. These decorative panels, as noted drapery fabricator Robin Feuer suggests, “need to be lined and interlined for the best protection. For added protection, a solar shade with maximum opacity should be added.” In addition, strips are oftentimes placed on the sides of the windows, insuring the least light invasion. Insofar as interior lighting is concerned, Richard Renfro of Renfro Design suggests placing LED light strips on the underside of the ledge above each shelf. Compared to other types of lighting, LED’s are not as hot and emit a nice, consistent stream of light upon the books below. Free of UV rays and infrared frequencies, they can be left on for considerable periods of time. Phantom Lighting who makes such concealed linear strip lighting notes ” that the lighting strip creates a safe, low-voltage light appropriate for lighting books continuously.” Sandra Liotus, Liotus Lighting Design, engineers and builds glass fiber optic lighting which removes all infra-red and ultra violet lighting frequencies, allowing rare books to be lit without worry of fading, wet or dry rot, or reduced relative humidity.”

Why Library Automation Software Makes Sense

Your books are getting out of control, no matter what you’ve tried to do in the past. Instead of simply giving up, you might want to invest in library automation software. This will allow you to see all of the books you own in one place, while also having a digital copy of the inventory. Whether you own a lot of books or you have plans to own a lot of books, the library automation software you choose makes sense for all situations. Here are some more benefits to using this sort of software.

The Software is Reasonably Cheap

The good news is that library automation software is far cheaper than any other software program you might use or need. The system is readily available, so it doesn’t have to cost as much as other more complicated systems. No matter what your budget might be, you should be able to afford the system and all of its tools. Plus, since the system tends to be more than you need for a long period of time, you don’t need to buy upgrades or new systems which can also cost money. Of course, it never hurts to look around to see what the prices of various systems are before you commit to buying one since you might have budget concerns.

It is Multi-Purpose

Those who look at the library automation software don’t realize at first all that it can do. Not only can this software help to organize a vast book library, but it can also categorize the library, arrange it, and catalogue it. When you’re trying to collect certain books, you will also be able to keep track of these purchases, their purchase dates, etc. For those who want to share their collections with others, the library automation software will help them to showcase the collection online or on a website which is specifically tailored to a certain audience. The automation allows you to complete tasks without having to spend a lot of time in the process.

The Software is Readily Available

Since the Internet, shopping has become much easier, especially when it comes to software packages. Instead of waiting for the library automation software to come to your door, you can often download the software right from your computer, gaining access to the system in just minutes instead of in days. When time is crucial, this is something that can be a large benefit in terms of the system you choose. You can go to the website, download it onto the computer you desire as well as to any other computers in the system, without buying a number of CDs.

With library automation software, you don’t have to worry about losing books in your vast inventory. By taking the time to find the software system that’s right for you, to use it wisely, and to use all of its capabilities, you can begin to change the way you run your business, your home, or your library.

The Rare Book Library: Home Sanctuary III

There are several important characteristics to be considered in designing a rare book library. As a designer, the most prominent categories are the room’s lighting, air quality, cabinetry (shelving), finishes, and overall architectural plan. As the book becomes more arcane a form, these specific conditions will define and determine the longevity of the collection

Overall Plan and Design: Because rare books thrive best under specific conditions, it is best to segregate the private library from the rest of the home. This is done by creating an ante area, a controlled prelude space designated for the adjustment and gradual acclimatization of temperature and closure to air impurities. In addition to being a effective means of keeping out bad elements, ante rooms are beautiful areas unto themselves, as graceful and oftentimes interesting entries into main rooms. For the built in cabinetry, the bookshelves should be adjustable with flexibility for different sized volumes. Ideally, the shelving should line the room at one continuous height, so that it wraps the space in an aura of envelopment. The furniture then gets placed towards the middle of the room on a carpet, creating a floating effect that enhances the overall ethereal feel.

Floors: The harder the floor the better. This means non-porous stone floors with protective sealants are best. While placing a rug on top of its surface is not ideal, it is better than wall to wall carpeting which tends to capture more impurities. Radiant floors, in providing slow moving consistent heat streams, are most effective. Hard wood floors are also good.

Walls: When possible, stone walls with protective sealant coats are best. Gypsum walls tend to be too porous. However, if stone walls are not an option, a good protective wall finish over sheetrock such as Venetian plaster with its many smooth layers is advisable.

Ceilings: Avoid hung ceilings with ductwork. Instead, use through the walls ventilation systems. Ideally, the ceiling should be a solid surface with no penetration of outside light.

Lighting: Other than the book friendly lighting systems noted above, the ambient light provided by a table or floor lamp is quite acceptable. These fixtures are on for short amounts of time and thus generally not so harmful.

Fabrics: Leathers coverings are superior to those made of fabrics, whose woven fibers are more vulnerable to toxic elements and dirt. Keep in mind that synthetics of any kind are not good. And, seams and decorative trims on furnishings should be kept to a minimum. The less places for germs to hide the better. Of course, what would a private library be without beautifully upholstered walls, antique carpets, window seats with beautiful draperies, lush fabrics, mohair throws, leather sofas, ornamental plasterwork with classical motifs, felt covered tables on which to place a book, a beautiful wood desk and chair, and a painting or two of your favorite author!

Surely the sanctuary, the private library is the collector’s ultimate utopia at home, where history mixes with the imagination and the past becomes alive. With diligent care and attention, rare books will thrive and perpetuate, ever increasing in value. As Jefferson correctly perceives, “A room without books is like a life without meaning.”