The word “ex-libris” carries with it the largely negative connotation of library discard. Envision stacks upon stacks of books in various states of repair at the annual Friends of the Library Sale—trash or treasure depending upon whose shoes one happens to occupy.
For me books have always been treasure, and my collection surely attests to that fact. I find it difficult to part with a book; I like the way they feel in my hands, the way they smell, and the way the typeface marches in orderly seraph-graced lines across the pages. In fact, I usually read three or four books simultaneously, blending vocational and pleasure reading throughout any given day.
During this year of nothing new and making do, my book buying is at a screeching halt. On the upside I’ve been frequenting the local library and having some wonderful conversations with our dedicated and knowledgeable librarian. I also borrowed a couple of books from the Eastern North Dakota Synod Resource Collection, and I haven’t spent a dime on new (or used!) books.
The downside is the growing awareness that my own library is too large for my needs. Notice I said “needs” not “wants” or “desires.” As part of my make-do pledge, I find that I’m also questioning the value and use of items I presently possess. Staring at shelf after shelf of beautiful, bountiful books provides an eye-opening experience. Some of them haven’t been touched (other than to pack and unpack them), much less read, since high school or college. Granted, I have some real treasures like a first edition signed Jesse Stewart novel that was a gift from a beloved mentor and storyteller. Commentaries and theological texts I use regularly; they aren’t merely dust collectors. But what about the rest? Do I really need books that may be easily borrowed from the library or from friends?
Let me say right now that I am not demanding, hinting, nor advocating that all of you pare down your own libraries. Please don’t think for one moment that I’m trying to sign you up for a bibliophile’s guilt trip. I’m simply saying that for me the question of possessing a large personal collection of books is one of my stewardship “growing edges.” To that end, I have decided to free the larger portion of bound volumes (or volumes bound, depending on how one looks at it) on my book shelves.
The decision comes with no small measure of pain as I list dear old friendly books on Amazon.com or PaperBackSwap.com. Giving books to the library and to friends is a more joyous experience, and I admit I do like taking those Amazon checks and applying them to my student loans.
As more and more of my rather large collection becomes “ex-Lucas-libris” I feel better. Knowing that others will find pleasure in reading books that brought joy and knowledge to my life is not such a bad thing after all. An added benefit is the sense of community that comes with sharing, and the affirmation that we really don’t need to possess so many “things” in this world for our lives to be full and rewarding. In a strange kind of way, it almost seems that books are more valuable to me now than before.
Hmmmmm…..wonder if I should tackle the DVD collection, too?
2008, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Lucas is a parish pastor serving the Sheyenne-Oberon Area Ministry, a four-point cooperative ministry in the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. She is the mother of two wonderful daughters.