Dear Dr. Archer,
I suffer from bibliomania. It's a long story, but I founded a start-up university and each year I had to report to the State of Louisiana how many volumes we had in our library.
It was no fun reporting; we had only 500 volumes, so I began to go to the local established university library each night and crawl through the side of their dumpster and retrieve sometimes literally a pick-up truck full of good books for five years.
It seems that people die and leave their libraries to the local university in their wills, but the university doesn't want nor need them. However, politics and public relations being what they are, the university graciously accepts and receives the books, picks over them for any that they might want, and then tosses the rest into the dumpster.
As my "university's library" got larger and larger, I had no place to keep so many books; I rented a weatherized warehouse to keep them, until I had expended at least $5,000 of my own money; then a local university lent me a sizable upstairs room on the second floor of a downtown building in Lake Charles, La.
To get these books off the floor, I personally built twenty-one wooden book-shelves, each with eighteen feet of book space and bought every used bookshelf I could find at garage sales. I still had tons of books on the floor awaiting a shelf, upwards of 50,000 volumes!
These were no junk books. Many of these were precious volumes, and I loved them. I read many of them, and I thought at times that I had learned more from books I had dug out of the local university library dumpster than I had learned during my four years of college there.
Here's the rub: the wonderful University President who was giving me a free room to house my university's library sold his university's buildings to a developer. I had to clear out my books from the room that the university president had lent me.
I learned the hard way that one can't get rid of 50,000 volumes, especially of 50,000 volumes of used books. People will come and buy some; but they will pick choice volumes and leave the rest.
I thought long and hard about it and realized there was nothing to do but throw them away. At first I would take a carload of books and dump them in the dumpsters of local businesses, until it dawned on me that this was in violation of law. One can't use somebody else's dumpster, without permission.
I had a little bit of money in my account, about $1,000.00, and I walked into the office of the university president and told him my trouble of emptying the room before the takeover. I told him I had $950, and asked him to see that the job was done. He was very nice despite me dumping my problem in his lap. He accepted the check and for a week they threw books into the dumpsters.
It was a horrible experience, my precious library I had devoted so much time and energy to, and to abandon my second life -- I'm a practicing attorney by profession -- but I did just that.
There is more to this story than I am telling you here, but this is something to think about. I still have in mind someday of rebuilding my university's library until it has, not just fifty thousand volumes, but millions of volumes. I have already started bringing in books to my home and to my law office, until my wife has almost threatened to divorce me if I bring home another book.
I have not sought psychiatric help for my bibliomania, but it might be a good idea for me to do so. I am trying to overcome it on my own. That's why I call myself a recovering bibliomaniac.
For our readers, bibliomania is the collecting of books which have no particular use to the collector and no value to a book collector. Bibliomania is not recognized by the DSM-IV as a psychological disorder.
As for re-kindling your hobby, I agree with your wife, your home is no place for all these books. But, I think you have a great story that the local media will embrace. Get some public awareness and a donated building or some space, then start that library and build it to be the biggest in the state. I find books fascinating as well and think that something good could come from this.
Keep me posted, this is a great story.