Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Where do the books go?

I've just started upacking my books, which has me confronting anew the question that Terminaldegree posed some weeks ago: what remains at home, and what goes to the office?

Some things are easy: every text that I teach goes to the office, as do all my journal issues; all those books that are out of my field and that I don't teach, on the other hand, stay at home. But what happens to all those other Early Modern books? Do I try to take in everything remotely related to what I teach and research--including secondary sources and critical editions? Will I really need, say, my multi-volume Complete Prose Works of John Milton at the office? (And if not, is the fact that the set looks impressive reason enough to house it there?)

Part of the question, I suppose, is where I'll actually be getting work done. I've never had a departmental office of my own, so I never got in the habit of using such office space as I did have for anything other than holding office hours, grading, and answering email. From here on in, however, I'll be on campus for many hours in which I'm not teaching: I'm only teaching two days a week, both semesters, so I'll have large chunks of time that might well (that SHOULD bloody well) be devoted to my scholarship.

On the other hand, I work well at home and I now have a wonderful study in which to do so. I'm also living a few towns away from Regional U, and I foresee weekends when I'll suddenly realize that I absolutely need a book that's at my office--and then will have to schlep out to campus to get it.

I suppose there's no foolproof way to do this. . . but I'm curious: what strategies do you use, or which philosophies do you follow, in divvying up your own books between home and work?


Anonymous said...

I have no useful system at all. When I moved here, I went on the theory that stuff for my little narrow slice of personal research would stay home, and the rest would go to my campus office (which has more bookshelf space than my home, anyway, at least once you take all the random fiction/fun reading into account). That was going on the assumption that I would work at home. Which I've been tending not to do. (And I ended up with a bunch of non-research books at home, too, because they didn't make it over to the office in the original purge, and I'm too lazy to haul them over there now.) Thing is, I don't do that much research work in my school office, either - I'm tending more and more to work on my research/writing in other spaces (libraries, coffeeshops). So my current method is that some books are at home, and some are at school, and while I'm working, I'll just make notes to myself that I need to get book X from whichever location is appropriate, when I find I need something. So far I've managed not to have to schlep over to campus on a day I hadn't planned to - there are usually plenty of other things for me to read to fill my time! (However, I'm much more likely to find myself at home lacking a book I need to prep class, rather than lacking a book to finish a crucial piece of research. So I have a lot of duplicates of teaching books - one at home, one at school.)

The one bonus to this lack of system is that I tend not to carry big stacks of research books around, but only to have with me the book I'm really honestly using at a given time. So I'm a little more aware of what I'm actually working on, if that makes any sense.

The exception to my un-system is that my reference-y things - dictionaries and paleography guides and whatnot - are all in my campus office; they're too big and heavy to have at home, and that's where my microfilms/xeroxes of original docs. are, too, so that's where I read original stuff, rather than at home. Plus I might need them for a student.

I guess the only useful point you could take from this is that not having a system has not yet resulted in chaos and panic, at least in my case.

(Sorry to go on so long! I'm at home by myself on a boring holiday and have been a very assiduous blog reader/commenter today...)

Terminal Degree said...

I will be reading your comments for Profound Answers now! :)

I've decided to put my 5 sets of music dictionaries AND all of my sheet music (three file cabinets, 4 drawers each) at work, simply because I want to separate Work and Home. And I'll keep my 300 kazoo CDs at work, too, because I just don't listen to kazoo music when I'm "off duty." The other stuff? Not sure yet.

Tiruncula said...

In my current setup, I work well at the office, where I don't get noodged by dogs and cats. Part of my decision about what to have at home vs. office is internet driven: until now, I've had high-speed internet only at work, and a lot of the big reference sources I need in my own work (like dictionaries) are online if I'm on campus, so the hard copies of them stay at home. As far as class prep goes, though, I like to have a pretty wide array of reference books related to what I teach in my office, because it's there that I'm more likely to have an omg-must-have-this-factoid-or-image-or-map prep panic there right before class, whereas what I do in more leisurely prep at home is read the actual text, which is easy enough to tote back and forth.

I'm not at all sure that I'll use the same pattern in my new place, since I don't know how much I'll like working in my new office. I've been warned that I may have to float around from office to office for a few years, which would make me disinclined to move most of my books there. Plus it'll be much more of a schlep to run over to campus if I'm at home and need something there, plus my building at work will be just a stone's throw from an amazing library with an espresso bar in it. All of those things may mean putting more attention into equipping the home library

Anonymous said...

You've asked a question for the ages here!

My own experience had everything to do with how awful my office was -- no windows, cinder block walls, etc. -- so I was reluctant to stay extra hours at the office to do research there. So my solution was to have all class prep books at school (and bring home for the night only the book I was prepping) and all my research books at home. Of course, these two categories of books are probably more easily distinguishable for me than for some folks (i.e., I don't tend to teach exactly my area of research).

Really, I think it depends on how you'll be using your space, and you won't know that for awhile. You'll undoubtedly want to be on campus on days when you're not teaching -- that whole "visibility on campus" thing -- but you could bring into the office that day just the texts you're working on (along NK's advice).

I'll be interested to read other folks' comments as well.

kfluff said...

This is not an efficient system, but it's the one that works for me. I try to keep all books in the same field together, whether on campus or at home (e.g., all 20th C poetry at school, all French theory at home). It's the only way that I can remember where a particular book is at any given time. I do some schlepping, but it really cuts down on the hours it can take me to find the right text. I'll echo Tirincula here and say that I do want every kind of reference relevant to my courses on hand in the office while I prep.

That being said, I've found that writing/research on campus is virtually impossible--perhaps it's a SLAC problem, but students and colleagues are apt to come a'knockin' at all hours, even if the door is closed. Too much interruption makes Fluff a dumb researcher. Perhaps the first few months at your new job will give you a sense of how easily you'll able to think/work in your new office?

Cats & Dogma said...

I think others have made clear that the question isn't likely to be where you'll do your research, because it may be both at home and at school, but rather, which books you're likely to need in a pinch for your teaching, either for class prep or for student reference.

Therefore, I keep all of my anthologies, all of my plays (since I do drama research), and all of my theory/crit at my office, and then bring stuff home as I need it. All of our fiction, poetry, pleasure reading, coffee table books, humor, self-help etc remains at home.

This way, most of the "I need a book that I don't have here" moments happen while I'm writing (both at home and at the office), and not while I'm teaching or planning to teach, and since my writing can usually sustain delays and detours, that works out fine for me.

Mon said...

Geez I coulda written this post myself. I am getting packed up for the move and am also wondering what I should keep at home and at the office. I think I like Cats & Dogma's idea, but the busy commute to my office makes me leary of leaving anything there that I may need at home. Sigh. Fluff's also seems to be on to something--perhaps I need to see how it is going to be to work at the office. But I do think I'm going to have to invest in more than one copy of a few books--like style manuals. I guess it really will be about trial and error. For now, I'll just concentrate on motivating myself to pack these books up!

dhawhee said...

Yah, nothing can derail a morning of work at home like a book you absolutely need but that happens to be at the office. On the contrary, the campus office is close to all your colleagues' offices and also the library (or this is what I tell myself). So I say, when in doubt, leave it at home. Unless your new dept. has a culture of hanging around, it's probably best to stick with writing-at-home practices. There's enough spatial adjustment at first without tinkering with such habits. But I'm kind of superstitious that way.

Stewgad said...

Such a great question -- like New Kid, I don't have a system. Which can suck because I have no memory, and my office is an hour away, so I never know where my books are when I need them.

The solution I've come up with is just to decide what I won't need most frequently, put them in the office and then catalog them on Library Thing (http://www.librarything.com)-- so that if I need to find it, I look to see where it is, home or office.

I think, though, that if you've got a system that is working -- don't fix it!

Mel said...

My system has been fairly similar to what others have said, although I've adjusted it at key times -- for instance, I was keeping all materials for a large research project that involved a lot of small detailed tasks (i.e., easy to do in between meetings or courses) at school, when mostly I keep research at home. But then the roof of our building started leaking. So a new decision category arose: all valuable or rare materials go home.

Double copies of teaching books is helpful (to reduce the schlep factor).Like NK, I've found that having to plan a bit helps me be realistic about how many books I'm going to read/need over the weekend, or whatever.

And every summer I try to weed out the library books that pile up at home and take them back -- at least to the office if not to the library.