Classifiers and Hoarders

Azariah Root
Azariah Smith Root. Public Domain.

There seem to be two sorts of librarians in the world – the pack rats and the labelers.  (Or at least, I like to joke that that is the case.)  One wants to save everything; the other wants to classify everything into a neat order.  I always explain my undergraduate institution’s excellent library by noting that one of its early directors was a bonafide hoarder.  Azariah Smith Root would put just about anything paper in Oberlin College’s library; and once it was in the library, it wasn’t leaving.  And the perhaps most famous librarian in the United States, Melvil Dewey, was the other type of librarian – a classifier.  He wanted everything in the world to fit under his (highly Eurocentric) labels.

I’m starting to get the feeling that I am probably a labeler, a classifier, one of those organized types.

Because I graduated from my Masters program and am now pursuing new opportunities, I’m moving out of my long-term home and into a new residence.  Moving has forced me to evaluate all the stuff I’ve accumulated and evaluate whether I want to keep it.  The pack rats among us will be sad to learn that I happily have been weeding my collections (books, trinkets, etc.) with a gusto that surprises me.  I’m probably only taking half of my books; the others go to charity or are disposed of.  Many of my hand-drawn maps have gone to the recycling bin.  Photos have been torn up and thrown away.  For a person who wants to protect information (and has a soft spot for rare books and archives), I am shamefully happy to throw things away.

So, yeah, I’m probably not an Azariah Root.

Melvil Dewey
Melvil Dewey. Public Domain.

Which leaves me with the unfortunate feeling that I might be a Dewey.  In my domestic space, everything has a spot and it always goes in that spot.  Well, now that I’m pulling everything off my shelves and out of my drawers, transitioning them to boxes, nothing is in its place.  First, I can’t find anything; and second, I hate staring at the piles of unorganized material hogging my floor space.  I’ve come to realize that I want everything in its “proper” place, and not scattered to the four winds.

(I guess maybe it’s good I’m not a cataloger, because I think a backlog might drive me insane.  All those books, piled up and unorganized – ack!)

So, though my residence looks like I’m a pack rat, it is emotionally proving to me that I’m a classifier.  Maybe I went into librarianship because I like the order and organization of information – at least in part.

(Also, moving is a crazy time.)


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