Some books are bigger than others

During my time at the library we have changed how and where our books are housed quite a few times. All of these changes have involved shifting hundreds to thousands of books from the old arrangements to the new layouts. This is a team effort and we have learned some lessons about the “Art of Shifting” from all these projects. One insight: it is much easier to shift books that are a standard size than ones that vary in size. While recently struggling to shift books that varied tremendously in size I wondered, “what is the biggest book we own at the library? And what is the smallest? And what if they ended up next to each other on a shelf?”

Finding the largest and smallest books isn’t that easy. You cannot use our catalog to search for books based on size and, even if you just scan the shelves, what exactly are you trying to measure? The height of the book? The depth? The width (or the number of pages)? Since I needed to choose some criteria I scanned our shelves for the tallest and shortest books, giving preference to narrower books for the smallest ones.

For the bigger books, I went straight to our Oversize shelf in our Arts neighborhood because they are, well, over-sized.

Measuring an impressive 18″ high “20th Century World Architecture” is a visually stunning and impressively heavy (18.4 lbs) tome. The Lego archaeologist mini figure is included for a sense of scale.

After scanning all of our other shelves I checked the Atlas section in our Reading Room on the second floor. Here is where I found what I believe to be our tallest book: “The Atlas of Early American History: The Revolutionary Era 1760-1790″. This volume is just half an inch taller than “20th Century World Architecture”, but we are aiming for the highest here.

After the search for big, it was time to scour for the small. I quickly found out that it is much easier to spot the big books because the small ones can hide very well. Tucked between the other self-help books in our Health & Wellness neighborhood I found the humorous but comforting “The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great”. At only six inches tall and appropriately brief this book isn’t aiming to impress anyone.

I thought I might have better luck looking for tiny books in the children’s collection and it did not disappoint. I chose just one of the “Little Miss” series but they are all only five inches tall and quite thin.

Finally, I found what may be the smallest books we own: a pair of board books in Chinese titled “Kan Tu Shi Zi” (See the Picture, Know the Character). Both feature pictures of food with the names in English and Chinese and both are a minuscule four inches tall.

And here they are together: the biggest and smallest books I could find. This historic moment is probably the first and last time they will be standing next to each other. Please feel free to come in and explore our stacks for any type of book that suits your fancy. We are glad to help you in your search.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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