Phantom Library Syndrome

I’ve written before about my on-going discovery of gaps in my library caused by the necessary dispersion of our household goods. When we had to move from Evanston and Princeton to Durham and Baltimore, and then from Durham and Baltimore to Glasgow, we were obliged to cut back on one of our principal possessions — viz., about two-thirds of our extensive theological library. And since our relocation took place under time pressure, the process of de-acquisition was not systematic, but somewhat haphazard; some boxes were kept, based on the books most obvious at their top, although it turned out that those boxes included mostly less useful volumes, and some boxes were given away although they will have turned out to have contained some important texts.
That’s all as it may be. The circumstances were what they were, and we did what we had to at the time.
But over time, I’ve been experiencing what one might call ‘phantom library syndrome’ — the conviction that I really must have, somewhere, books that I know we didn’t ship over to Glasgow. And that, in turn, complicates my dealings with books in the here and now. Shall I buy another copy of The Future of Our Religious Past (just spotted it at Oxfam)? Well, no; I really wouldn’t use it that much — except it feels as though a copy belongs in my library. And what if we move again? I’m strongly disinclined to buy books, sinceI’m haunted by the awareness that we might have to shed them yet again. Even newly-published books rarely appeal to me now. They all look heavy, bulky, burdensome. At the same time, though, the phantom library continually whispers to me of what is missing, what should be there, what needs to be replaced.
There’s no point in my suggesting this as a lesson to you all; for most of you, the odds that you’ll have to dissolve your library (or other comparable personally-invested material possessions) is comparatively small, and I don’t suppose you should alter your behaviour lest you the same experience befall you. I suppose, though, that if someone else is feeling the effects of Phantom Library Syndrome, you should know you aren’t the only one.

1 thought on “Phantom Library Syndrome

  1. Hi AKMA,

    Around Christmas time I wandered into my library and started culling and got rid of about 1000 theological titles. Now when I go back into it, I feel extremely unsettled and like I tossed some old friends. I understand your discomfort.

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