How much air do books need to breathe?
Preservation and conservation standards inform arrangement for airflow. Henry Petroski’s Book on the Bookshelf explores engineering and design for bookshelves and libraries to allow sufficient light before electric light. For infrastructure and standards, subject and other classification systems (Library of Congress, Dewey, another system) structure the content of collections. So, too, does the physical form. The Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, founded by Ruth Baldwin, arranges books by size. Miniature books, big little books, oversized. Arranging by size saves precious shelf space. For those who are lucky enough to enter the closed stacks, colorful spines create extended patterns across rows and shelves. Personal library arrangements fit personal needs and spaces, with George Perec noting the art and manner of this work.
As a travel back from the fabulous West Indian Literature Conference, carrying books-to-be-gifts with me, I’m wondering how these books will live. I never seem to mind the temporary carrying of the weight of books; they are never light, but books-to-be-given are a gift and not a burden, which I can’t say for my laptop or clothes as I walk through airport terminals. Books shared are enriched for the books and the readers, and the beauty of this arrangement is on display in the day-to-day in libraries. Thinking about arranging for air, it feels like books need just enough space to be read and to take breath with us, to breathe together.