Deaccessioning the Self

Even after being an English major and an American Studies major, I have only retained about 2 1/2 shelves worth of books, with only one shelf currently on display. Most of these have been read. Only a few remain for reference for photography and for bird identification.

The remaining books tucked away in storage I am on the fence about retaining. They are mostly related to my area of study as an undergrad (Early American literature) and are not anything I would read anymore. I’m not even sure I could talk cogently about them anymore because it has been so long. It feels like the books represent a me that no longer exists. Why do I keep them? Why would I ever display them?

I go back to the word display, because that is what is done with book collections on shelves. They are a presentation to others to show our personality, our hipness, our quirkiness. Why else would I put out Mae West’s autobiography, Buster Keaton Remembered, and Harold Lloyd’s Hollywood Nudes in 3-D?

Yes the content is or was a part of me, but after 6 years of not being touched except to be rearranged, how much of a part? Does the personal connection to a collection fade like the book bindings in the sun? Do those pieces of the self fade away as well?

I’ve sold or put on the curb hundreds and hundreds of books to winnow down my collection with little regret. But after getting rid of the chafe I’m down to the core material… or what used to be core material. Time has gone by… I’ve gone through much… My collection policy has changed — is it time to deaccession or hold on?