Love your books? Show them off to the world in style with these tips, says Teja Lele Desai
I fell in love with books as a child. Back then, a home library – wall after wall chock-a-block with shelves stacked with books – seemed to exist only in the movies. These days, despite the omnipotent presence of the Internet and e-books, home libraries continue to thrive.
Created with much love and dedication, a home library can be the go-to room for the entire family. Depending on the space you have, choose a room or an area – a walk-in closet with informal seating nearby works too. The number of books and storage needs will determine the kind of space you need. Only one wall can function as a home library, but dedicating an entire room creates a space where the family can sit back, relax, read and share knowledge over the years. A home library can also do double duty - depending on the time of the day, it can function as a home office, a lounge or guest room.
A library isn’t a library without a series of shelves teeming with books. Freestanding bookcases are available in a variety of sizes, patterns and prices. Bespoke bookcases, be they recessed or built-in, offer immense storage possibilities. If short of space, run shelves to the ceiling. Glass-fronted cabinets keep books cleaner and dryer. Dedicated collectors may find a sliding library ladder (to reach top shelves) and a bible stand (for heavy tomes) handy. A TV, DVD player and comfortable furniture are ideal additions.
Ensure shelves are hung with proper anchors, supports and brackets so that they don’t sag under the weight of books. A professional carpenter is the best help to figure out weight and point loads. Shelves can be wood, blockboard, plywood, metal or glass. Rule of thumb: a shelf about 36 inches long should be at least one-inch thick. Overhangs at each end beyond brackets should not be more than 20 per cent of the distance between the support brackets. Shelves for paperbacks, CDs and DVDs should be about 15cm wide; make them 20cm for larger books. Leave about 23-25cm between each shelf—this gives you a space of 3cm to 5cm above books and allows you to easily pull them out. Adjustable shelves are ideal as they allow optimal use of space.
Classify and categorise
Melvil Dewey’s Decimal Classification System for libraries (includes 10 broad categories for organising books) may seem a bit much for a home library, but a “a place for everything and everything in its place” is a good rule. Sort books the way you want to — by subject matter, author, genre or the order you bought them. Those who detest organisation and categories would do well to sort books by colour – creates a visually appealing display.
Light it right
A library needs good lighting. How else will you read book after book, without damaging your eyes? Poor lighting while reading can lead to eye strain, headaches and fatigue. If you’re lucky, the space will be blessed with ample natural light; or else, you may need overhead and accent lights, and table lamps. Position your reading lamp over the shoulder, so that the light does not hit the eyes. This also helps minimise glare. Strong natural light can lead to bleaching, fading and deterioration of books. If your books are stacked near windows, tack thick paper on the panes and draw the blinds to keep intense light out.
Book them forever
Shelves and glass-front cabinets are fine, but is your much-loved collection safe? Silverfish eat away at glue and paper, cockroaches devour paper, bookworms can tunnel through a book and lay eggs in it, while book lice thrive on book paste, glue and fungus. Rodents, including mice and rats, can also attack your books. All thrive in dark dusty corners, so ensure that the space is kept spotlessly clean. In case of an infestation, isolate affected books. Control moisture and dust in the library to discourage the growth of fungus, mould and mildew.