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How & Why to Build a Personal Reference Library

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We live in a digital age. We also live in an age in which simplifying and decluttering seem to be constant battles in many homes.  The digital age comes with many blessings and decluttering our homes is a worthwhile pursuit, however; both can have a few drawbacks. The main drawback that both have in common is that actual books and physical personal libraries full of resource material are often missing in many of our modern homes. Building a personal reference library can serve our homes in a variety of ways and no matter how many times the internet can save our collective hides, a resource library is invaluable and should never be completely skipped over.

Build a personal reference library to answer questions, inspire new ways of thinking, and encourage growth in personal goals.

The Wonders of a Personal Library

An online search engine is a wonderful thing. We search for ideas on how to repair equipment, look for recipes, watch videos on how to light a bee smoker and more. There are bloggers and videos and so much information online. It’s a blessing of our digital age. However, it can be limited and searching can sometimes lead us down strange rabbit holes that leave us even more confused. A solidly built personal reference library can alleviate that confusion. A library built with books and materials that are most suited to personal priorities can provide answers, guide, and inspire new ways of thinking and living.

Ebooks can be cheap, heck they can even be free much of the time. As a reader and writer of ebooks, I realize their value and importance. However, there are so many reasons that we shouldn’t trust all of the information to be safe and secure in a digital realm. Loss of power, emergencies, natural disasters, etc. etc. mean that we need to have some physical back-up to our knowledge base. 

A personal library is more than just purchased books. Ideally, it’s a combination of books, journals, magazines, and more. It’s a collection of resources that suit the person and the home most uniquely. It should be an amassing of information that makes the library completely unique and absolutely perfect for the household it serves. 

Start with Books

Obviously, we need to buy some books. But it’s not a matter of buying books I think are good or that someone else suggests. Find books that fit the needs of the home. Beekeepers should have beekeeping books. Herbalists should have herbal books. There are, of course, a number of interests in every home so make sure the books reflect the interests and goals. My own shelves are a mix of herbal remedies, gardening information, cookbooks, craft books, and more.  

A Mix of Old & New

Keep those bookshelves full of classic resources and newly released works. Having modern books assures that the canning information is up-to-date and safe as an example. Old books can provide us with skills and ideas that we as a society are losing and for that reason alone are worth keeping and preserving – learning from too. Family heirloom cookbooks are great for the basics, for example. Newer cookbooks are more likely to contain the flavors and ingredients we’re more accustomed too. Older books can sometimes provide us with a different perspective as well and I find that quite refreshing. The interviews in the old Foxfire books, for example, provide me with inspiration, gratitude, and a whole lot of desire to try harder. 

Read reviews for newer books and be sure to look through used books at yard sales, flea markets, and library sales for older resources to add to your library. 

Add Some Magazines

For the most part, to avoid clutter, I’m a bigger fan of clipping articles from magazines and filing those into binders but every now and then there might be entire issues we want to keep. Add those to your personal library. Store them in magazine boxes to keep them neat. 

Binders of Clippings & Printables

Instead of keeping entire magazines, keep the pertinent stuff and recycle the rest. Organize the clippings in three ring binders by subject. Do the same thing with recipe clippings – organize by meal or ingredient. All those printables, ebooks, and ecourse materials can also be organized by subject. Keep them printed double-sided and in black and white to make the most of paper and printing costs.  

Build a personal reference library to answer questions, inspire new ways of thinking, and encourage growth in personal goals.

Personal Journals 

Keep copies of the homestead journal, personal diaries, and notebooks from classes in the library. These notes and records can often be the most valuable sources of what works and doesn’t. Keep an index of the journals for easy reference when needed. From a seasonal living perspective, there is nothing more valuable to me than my own records so I know when to generally look for ripe thimbleberries and when I harvested violets last year. 

How to Keep it from Being Cluttered

Go through the library now and then and donate books that aren’t used often. Recycle clippings or printables that simply aren’t being used effectively. When using tutorials or recipes in the binders, don’t keep the ones that were flops or simply not liked. Be brutal and keep the personal library limited to a certain number of book shelves to prevent from spilling over and out of control. 

A personal resource library can be the thing that provides answers to problems, both large and small, while also providing constant sources of inspiration and encouragement. Build it slowly and wisely so that it can serve the home for years to come. 

Do you maintain a personal reference library? What’s your favorite book or resource?

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Kathy Hutton

Friday 14th of April 2017

I get most of my magazines from the recycle program at the Library, so I copy the articles or recipes. I then slide them in the plastic 3 ring holders and into my binder. I have crafts, gardening, recipes, and decorating. That way the next person can enjoy the article too. And I don't have to pay for or have the clutter of many magazines laying around. I do this once a week and at the end of the month add my magazines to the return pile.

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