Chiara Ogan is a former UX designer and information architect. She recently left that career to become a mental health therapist. Chiara’s background is in library science, and in this conversation, we discuss how she organizes her personal book collection — which she just did in preparation for this major life change.
- Chiara Ogan
- Chiara (Berlingo Fox) Ogan - LinkedIn
- Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-scale Web Sites by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville
- Billy bookcases
- Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become by Peter Morville
- Dewey Decimal Classification - Wikipedia
- S. R. Ranganathan - Wikipedia
- Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough
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Jorge: Chiara, welcome to the show.
Chiara: Thank you, Jorge. It’s great to be here.
Jorge: Well, it’s great to see you. You and I are friends — and have been friends — for a long time. We’ve worked together as well. So this feels more like a catch up call to me than recording an episode of the podcast. People listening in might not be familiar with you and your work. How do you introduce yourself?
Chiara: So that’s a really interesting question for me right now, because I’m kind of in this liminal space. For the next week and a half, I would say, “I’m a user experience designer and information architect.” But at the end of the month I am shuttering my business and going back to graduate school. I’m making a pivot and I’m going to become a mental health therapist.
Jorge: Wow, that’s really intriguing and by the time that this episode comes out, this transition will have already happened, right?
Chiara: Yeah, I should be in school, because that starts in September.
Jorge: So I think, funny enough, the topic of our conversation might delve into the implications of this transition and how your background might help you through it in some ways.
Chiara: Yeah, sure. Yes.
Jorge: So, you said that you have been in the user experience space and particularly information architecture. Can you talk a bit more about that? What does your background look like there?
The need behind the ask
Chiara: Yeah, so I actually started my career as a librarian. I started working in the public library when I was in high school, in my town in Connecticut. I really loved hooking people up with information, which is why I went to library school. I loved the reference interview and trying to hear the needs when people came in. Like, “I need a book on the rainforest.” Well, what was that about? Right? Like what, were they writing a term paper? Are they going on vacation? Like, what is the need underneath the ask?
I worked in libraries for about 10 years and after a while I realized I’m less interested in like — at this time, in the late nineties — taking the porn off the public computers every day that the middle schoolers would install. And this web thing was just starting and that was really interesting.
I was working at a scientific library, and I had bought this book, I_nformation Architecture for the World Wide Web_ for our library. And I was like, this is really cool and it makes sense. And in the back of the book it said the authors had this consulting company, Argus Associates, and they were always hiring. So I sent them my resume and a month later I was an information architect working with Lou and Peter at Argus Associates.
I always thought: this is it, my library skills, and I’m now organizing information for people who are online. And I’ve worked in-house, I’ve worked as a consultant as an IA, and then that kind of grew into more… no! Actually it’s user experience design. It’s more than just organizing the content and putting in the structures to help people find what they need.
I really got into the user research aspect of user experience design, and it was, again, going back to that: what is that need? What are people trying to accomplish? And the last, oh… five, eight years or so of my consulting career, I did a lot of research. And I really loved that. But after a while I realized I wanted to go deeper with my clients. I wanted to have more of a connection with the folks I was talking to and helping companies sell more widgets was not really what was… like, that had never been a motivator for me. And it really was no longer ringing true. And I realized what I wanted to do was ease suffering and manifest compassion in the world.
And I realized that pivoting to therapy was a way that I could do that and both take care of myself because I have some chronic health issues as well as bring into the world what I wanted to do. And I see it as this arc of like my career as like these three acts, right? Starting in libraries, especially public libraries, and then all the work I did in user experience design — all of that stuff was helping understand what motivates people, what their needs are, where their pain points are, and helping to find a solution that is going to help them reach their goals. And I see pivoting to therapy as a natural extension of that.
Jorge: You mentioned working for Argus, which was a pioneering consultancy in the space, focused on information architecture.
Jorge: And I think that when you and I met you were working at Adaptive Path, right?
Chiara: Let’s see. It was… we met at one of the early IA Summits, so I could have been at PeopleSoft, or I could have been at Adaptive Path. I joined Adaptive Path in early 2005.
Jorge: Oh yeah. So, we met before that. But I remember you being at Adaptive Path which kind of reflects that arc that you’re describing where it sounds like it started purely on the kind of more IA side, but then it became broader and more focused on UX in general and research in particular.
Reflecting back what I’m hearing from you, it does sound like there is this logical arc from the early days in working in libraries to where you are transitioning to now. And the common thread seems to be about somehow connecting people with the information they need to make a difference in their lives, right?
Chiara: Yeah, that really is a crux of it.
Jorge: Yeah. So one of the reasons that I wanted to talk with you here and hopefully share the conversation with other folks is that recently I saw a post of yours in Facebook where you were talking about having recently reorganized your personal library.
Jorge: And I kind of lit up when I saw that because… First of all, I think that there were photos of your library? And you know, people listening in the podcast can’t see us talking right now, but you have your books behind you, right? And and just from looking at your shelves, I can tell that they’re more or less like the same amount or in the same ballpark as like my books. And when I saw that you were reorganizing your library, I was like, “oh my gosh, I need to reorganize my books!” and if there’s anyone I would want to hear from in reorganizing my library, it would be Chiara. I would love to hear, more about how you went about this; someone with a library science background. How do you reorganize? First of all, how many books do you have, Chiara?
A true home library
Chiara: You know, I was just thinking as you were saying that! I was like, “gosh, we touched basically every book in the house!” Which… we have at least 10 bookcases, so it’s a lot. And we didn’t count them. So, maybe that’s a project before I start school; actually count the books. But, it’s about 10 bookcases full.
Jorge: 10 book cases. And we’re talking like… just to give people a frame of reference and just from what I’m looking at…
Chiara: mostly floor to ceiling.
Jorge: Floor to ceiling… like the kind of bookshelves that you get in Ikea, right? Like these…
Chiara: These are totally IKEA bookcases. So they’re not the Billy Bookcases, but they’re about three feet wide each shelf. And they got what? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 shelves.
Jorge: And they’re jampacked with books.
Chiara: Yeah! So, a lot of shelves now have a couple inches at the end of it, which was a big goal. And we’ll talk about how I ended up there.
Jorge: All right, so what did this collection of books look like before you undertook this project? Were they like all over the place or…
Chiara: They were. At the beginning of the pandemic, I joined a online book club where every month they get a new hardcover book. And it’s been awesome. I’ve read amazing books. Nonfiction, fiction, new authors, genres I never would’ve read before. Memoirs… all kinds of stuff. Which was… I’ve really enjoyed it.
But it meant that every month more books were coming and they literally were doing the… stacked on top, sideways, whichever, which way they would kind of stuff in on the shelves. And because I’m in this liminal, not really doing project work anymore, and school hasn’t started, I have, I’m totally nesting and doing the: “let’s clear out the old, make room for the new.” Because I’m going to have all these new school books, right? And psychology books that I’m bringing in. Do I really need three shelves of design books anymore?
And so, the clean out actually happened a year or two ago where I really started weeding my design books. And I keep the books that my friends write. So, I still have a whole bunch of design books, and the ones that are near and dear to my heart. But I donated a whole bunch of them to a daughter of a good friend of mine who is starting out in UX to seed her library.
And that kind of started the impetus because weeding books is really hard for me. They’re my best friends. I have books from college still. Even elementary school, I still have books. And so it was just getting out of control though because they just… I couldn’t find things and they were on top of each other and I’m like, “enough! We need a new bookcase.” And so we went all around the house trying to figure out we where we could put a new bookcase and we figured we could put it in the hallway. So I was like, this is great. We’ll put a new bookcase in the hallway and we’ll move some books over and that’s all it’s going to be. And it turned out into about a week long schlep of just about every book in the house.
Jorge: Are Are they all physical books or do you read using e-books as well?
Chiara: I do some e-books, but mostly just when I’m vacationing. We went and spent three weeks in Australia a number of years ago, and I was like, “I can’t bring three weeks’ worth of books with me.” So, that’s when I bought a Kindle. But mostly I read physical books.
Jorge: Okay. Yeah, it sounds like that’s the preference there. All right, so you are in this transitional space where you have the time, right? That seems like a first criteria: you have to have the time for this. And you decided on a place to start reorganizing things. What did you do then? Did you start like taking things off current shelves and putting them somewhere? Or what was step one there?
Book organization, step one
Chiara: So it started in the hallway first. We have two little half bookcases that had mostly magazines and odds and ends. That was the first big clean out, just getting rid of: “do I really need Bon Appétit from 10 years ago?” no, I don’t. You know? Because I’m a good librarian, all my magazines were in the little file folders with dates and like what the magazine is, and in chronological order and like… all that stuff went. And so, that cleared out a whole bunch of room.
So then it was like… It really was driven by space, right? Because a lot of my books, I separate fiction from nonfiction. That’s the first big division. I’ve always done that. And I realized I have, you know, I’m a big crafter. I do knitting and quilting and embroidery. And so I have patterns and I have books and I have some magazines and a whole bunch of stuff. And I was like, “hey! These are actually all going to fit on these two shelves in the hallway.”
So that was like the first thing to go, right? And it was really a space constraint. This is one unit that all goes together. So, boom! That moved out. And then we put the new bookcase together in the hallway and that was awesome. And one of the things that I wanted was to have a “to read” shelf. That was just something that I’ve seen people online talk about it. And the stack next to the bedside table, or I had started putting books sideways and that meant “read next” was the sideways, versus if you could see the spine, I had read it. And I was like, “no! I want space where I can just see all the new books that I have that’s on deck.”
And so that was… a big chunk came off the bookcases and went onto the “to read” shelf. And I actually reorganized my books a couple of times. Probably about every 10 years or so they get reorganized. Because when Eric and I moved to a Victorian, we organized all our books by color. Because the Victorian had two… the living room and dining room was basically like one giant room with just an archway in between. It was this beautiful design statement that went from, white to black with all the rainbow colors in between. And it was beautiful.
And when we moved to our house here in the Sunset of San Francisco, everything was in color order in the boxes. So that’s how it went up. And I bought the same book four times because I couldn’t find it! Because I couldn’t remember if it was green or blue or what color it was exactly. And so that’s when I was like, “all right, it’s going back in the order!” And so, this was about 10 years ago. I did fiction versus nonfiction. I actually broke the dining room table because I took all the books off the shelf and it was too heavy. Broke the table in half. So like that was a lesson learned: put them on the floor or the chairs this time.
But when I did that organization, I had a loose Dewey order and fiction. And so this time I wanted things to be a little more strict Dewey order.
Jorge: Let’s… First of all, I’m very curious about the table.
Chiara: It was hilarious.
Jorge: But I want to pinch and zoom on Dewey order because, again, I’m… well first of all, I’ve seen pictures of people who’ve done the organization by the color of the spine thing, and I always wonder, well, are they going to find things? Because if you have above a certain number of books, that requires remembering what color the spine of the book is, which I don’t for most of my books.
Chiara: Right. think that’s a librarian special skill. Because people will come into the public library and be like, “there was this book that was red, and it was about cats.” And you’re like, “oh yes! That’s The Tale of Fluffy Pantaloons!” And you just know the book that people are talking about. I also spent time working at Walden Books a little. You know, what used to be the mall bookstore. And like, same kind of thing: “I saw something on the Today Show and it was green and…” So that just becomes a superpower. But like I said: same book, four times. Good for Peter Morville, because I bought Ambient Findability four times.
Jorge: No, it’s quite ironic that it’s that one, A_mbient Findability._ But alright! So, I mean, this validates my impression that this kind of ordering scheme by color might be more appropriate for smaller collections or ones where you’re very familiar with the books, right?
Chiara: Yeah. Or if your library is less of a using library and more that it’s just a design feature.
Jorge: Yeah, for show. All right, so tell me about Dewey, because this is something where, I think a lot of us who have some familiarity with things like information architecture, we know what the Dewey Decimal classification scheme is, right? And many people might have heard that phrase, but they might not know how to map that to actually organizing your books. How does that play out?
The Dewey Decimal Classification system
Chiara: So, first let me just say that my husband likes to tease me because Dewey is an old system for classification, right? It kind of came out of the Victorian era in the early 20th century. And there are a lot of problems with the classification system, right? It is very white-centric, it is very Christian-centric and there are a lot of biases in the classification system. And that is super, super unfortunate.
And those are not reasons why I use this classification system at all. And the reason I do is because when I used the Library of Congress classification, I worked in a scientific library. And so, I know the classification system for physics and chemistry and biology books, but not the humanities. And my collection is more humanities. And so that’s why I default to Dewey because that’s what I know. But I understand that it is problematic as far as classification systems go.
Jorge: Well, but let’s start at step zero. Some folks might not know what we mean by a classification scheme, right?
Chiara: Yeah. So there’s two ways you organize books for findability in a library, right? One is you figure out what subject it’s about. And so that’s when, if you think back to the olden days where we actually had card catalogs. Little printed pieces of paper where you could say, “I need a book about the rainforest,” or horses, or whatever.
And you could go in and you could look up horses and see a card for every single book that was about that subject, and those are the subject headings for the classification. And then we had to put each book somewhere on a shelf, right? We have a physical object that can only live in one place. And so what Melvil Dewey did was come up with a numbering system that said: books in this subject belong in this location.
So then you can say, all right, I want King of the Wind, because that’s a book about horses or whatever it is. That’s going to be in 427 or whatever. I’m making it up, right? Whatever number… so then I can go to the shelf and go to where the four hundreds are and then find that book.
Jorge: And when you say four hundreds, there is a series of numbers that map to classification labels, right? So it might be that “horse”… you know, “horses”… and it’s a hierarchical schema, isn’t it?
Chiara: So, the way Dewey is broken out is it starts with 00.1 and it goes to the 900s. So it’s like a 10-unit chunk. And every hundreds place is a different broad category. So like the one hundreds is like religion and the 200…, I forget, three hundreds is like social science.
Four hundreds is like general science, seven hundreds is like crafts and stuff. Nine hundreds is histories and biographies. Eight hundreds is literature. They kind of chunk it out into the worldview that Dewey had. And then within, say, social sciences, then that gets broken down into the smaller numbers of, “well, is it sociology or is it psychology?” Or whatever. Is it civil rights?
And those then get finer and finer numbers as you go down. So you have a three digit code, then there’s a decimal point, and then there’s more letters and codes. And that has to do with like… once you’re within a topical area, like how do you order it? So it ends up being by author. But you get finer and finer slices, and so, the books are next to each other by how similar they are in topic.
Jorge: What you’re describing might be familiar to people who have perused the large public library, right?
Chiara: Yeah, that’s often where Dewey is used these days, in public libraries. I’m going to throw down some heavy duty library terminology here: we’re talking about pre-coordinate versus post-coordinate systems.
Jorge: Ooh, you want to expand on that?
Pre- and post-coordinate systems
Chiara: Yeah! So a pre-coordinate system is where we say this has one place where it needs to live, and we are going to decide ahead of time what all our little spots are, and then we can put our books in that correct one place. A post-coordinate system is something like facets that we use in information architecture all the time now with our faceted navigation or faceted search where we allow a more matrixed approach.
And this works really well for digital content because on the internet, one item can live in multiple places, right? Horses might live under animals, but it might also live under pets or it might be transportation history or children’s books or whatever. It has multiple places it can live. And so, a post-coordinate system says, “we’re going to figure out all the places it can go and basically tag or classify this as living in all of its homes.” It can show up in any of those places. So that’s the difference of like physical constraints versus digital. It can be anywhere.
Jorge: And Dewey’s classification scheme is one of several, right? And as you were describing the post-coordinate system I was thinking of… I don’t know how to pronounce it, is it Ranganathan? The Indian librarian. Didn’t he have a schema that was more facet-based?
Chiara: Yeah. His… and we’re going back a long time to library school now. But yeah, he was also I want to say around the time of Dewey. But like the Victorians in early 20th century, they were all about trying to come up with these ways to organize the world and knowledge and how we think about stuff. And so, there was like these different approaches of do I do it from this more multifaceted approach of there are lots of different entry points or do I use it as there’s one primary, which is what the Dewey Decimal System uses?
Library of Congress also has a classification system that’s very much like Dewey. That same kind of principle of everything has one place that has a multiple subject headings, but it has one home. But different cultures have different classification schemes. So there’s a British one. If you go to France, they have their own classification system that’s different than what the Library of Congress uses. Lots of universities use Library of Congress. It’s a newer system and it still has a lot of biases inherent in it, but not quite as deeply baked in as Dewey does.
Jorge: You mentioned in passing — as an example — you mentioned civil rights. And that stood out to me because it’s a phrase that I don’t know would have had currency when Dewey was
Jorge: How do these schemes get updated? Is there an organization that manages the official taxonomy?
Library classification taxonomy
Chiara: There is. So I am less clear on who owns Dewey these days, but they actually publish manuals and books of this is what the subject headings are, this is what the classification schemes are. So if you are working as a cataloger in a library, you can go to these resources and figure out, “okay! This book that I just bought belongs here.”
I know for Library of Congress, there are all kinds of working groups and committees that go through and review subject headings as well as classification numbers. And I think you can like petition and say “hey! This term is not okay anymore. We need to update it.” Like, it shouldn’t be “illegal immigrant,” it should be something else, you know? Or change the language to something that reflects society today. And there’s a whole process that they go through.
And because it’s government and its libraries, it’s slow. And I know there are a lot of people that are frustrated at the pace and some of the decisions that are made. But things… I know especially in Library of Congress, things have been updated and maintained. I’m less sure about Dewey. I think it has, but I don’t know. I’ve been out of that world a long time.
Jorge: Got it. Well, and that’s a really good primer I think on the basics of these things. But we’re talking about it in theory, right? And now I’m super curious about how this impacts the organization of your own library, because you’ve just gone through
Chiara: Yeah, So when my husband and I first moved in together, we merged our two libraries and I did strict Dewey order for all our books. And that meant I looked in the front of the books. A lot of times they have what’s called cataloging and print in the first… After the title page, which tells you what the Dewey number is, what the Library of Congress number is, if it’s a US book, and what the subject headings are.
And so I looked and my books were actually, you know, 341.78M, and like I would make sure that they were in the correct order. And I had a little bit of pride for that. Like, oh, my librarian is happy, right? And when we moved here after the whole color incident and the breaking of the table, I was like less… I’m not looking up everything because not every books have catalog in print.
So I would go online and look at online libraries and find out where they put them. And I was like, no, that’s too much work! And so what I actually did — and the reason I do Dewey is — because I go back to that library I worked at in high school, and I can actually envision the nonfiction room. It was one big room and it had like six rows, and I can walk those rows. And depending on where I am in that physical library, I’m like, “oh! That’s seven hundreds. That’s nine hundreds.” What were the books that we kept by the window?
And so, that’s how I think about Dewey now. And so that’s how I was able to put my books together. So like computer books are 001s and same thing with library books are like 098, I think. And so always start at the beginning so that… I’m pointing to my bookcases, like you all can see them! But that’s where Eric’s like Unix and C++ books and stuff are. And it’s less about strict Dewey order, but more like we’re going to start with the computer books. And then we go into some library science books. And then we start going into the religion books. And because that’s the flow of the Newtown Public Library in Connecticut, that’s the flow of my shelves.
Jorge: I see. So the categorization itself is based on Dewey but how you map those categories to the physical shelves is inspired by a physical space that you have experience with, right?
Jorge: There’s a little bit of kind of mapping there between this conceptual space and physical space. And and and I would expect that, and again you mentioned that you were pointing at physical bookshelves, which listeners can’t see.
Jorge: But the sense that I got when you were doing that is that now you’ve transferred that mapping from your old high school library to your current bookshelves, right?
Mapping physical to conceptual space
Chiara: Yeah! And the reason I did that is so I don’t buy Ambient Findability three more times. I know that it’s a design book, and I know the design books are all together and they’re up at the top shelf, and they’re not spread out just anywhere in the nonfiction world. I know all my Roman history books are going to be together towards the bottoms of the shelf because they’re all 900 something. So they’re all down at the bottom.
Jorge: And again, listeners can’t see the video feed here, but I’m seeing the shelves are just plain shelves. They have no labels on them. Because, if you go to a public library, they will have on the end pieces of the shelves, they will have little labels that say, this is 0001 to 300, or whatever, right? But is that because you’ve internalized this arrangement, you have it in your mind?
Chiara: Yeah, I can look and see “oh look! Here’s the life and biography of Julia Child.” And so, I know biographies, that’s going to be nine hundreds. And then what Eric and I did was we put them in order, all the biographies. We have about two shelves worth of biographies. And then they’re alphabetical by who the person it’s about. So, whether it’s a biography or autobiography, those are all together. And so, I just know Julia Child… that’s going to be 900. So that’s going to be towards the end of my shelves. And then that gets me in the neighborhood, so then I can go and be like, “oh! Here’s Beatrix Potter. That’s a P, so Julia must be before her.”
Jorge: Okay, so the first level of order here is by Dewey categories. And then the second order is alpha by author last name, right?
Chiara: So, it depends. So the biographies happen to be about… are ordered alphabetical by who it’s about.
Jorge: Oh, okay. That’s interesting.
Chiara: Right? Because I don’t have… if I had Julia Child’s autobiography, it would be under C. But I have a biography of her, so I also put that under C because it’s about Julia Child. But like the travel books are not by author; I don’t care who wrote them, they’re more geographical by where the book is about.
Jorge: So just to be clear, I have a biography of Theodore Roosevelt and it’s called Mornings on Horseback, right?
Jorge: So that book would be organized under R because it’s about Roosevelt. It would not be M because M, you know, “Morning” is the title of the book, M_ornings on Horseback,_ right?
Put books where they’re useful
Jorge: All right. Interesting: that seems like an exception to the rule. Which is fine, because one of the differences between organizing a personal information store and organizing information for others is that you and Eric are the main audience right so you can be idiosyncratic.
Chiara: I don’t have to have my cookbooks in the dining room, which is the main library with all the 600s. They’re in the kitchen together because that’s where we use them. So use comes into play, right? Like, I have a shelf above my desk in the office that’s mostly empty right now. It used to be all design books and it’s mostly empty now because that’s where my school books are going to go. The idea being these are the books that I need to put my hands on very quickly. So use factored in a lot.
Jorge: This is such an important distinction because what I think that most of us — when we think of libraries — we think of public libraries or big institutional libraries, where the main purpose of that space is to host the information. But the libraries that we build at home, the main purpose of our homes — at least for most of us — is not to host our information; it’s to accommodate a whole bunch of different tasks, which can be augmented or improved through the use of information, right? So it sounds like that might be a first order… that might even be, you know, above the Dewey thing. Which might be like, “where does it make most sense to have these,”
Chiara: Exactly. So that’s where use and physical constraints I think really came in, right? Like I first separate fiction from nonfiction because they’re just two different worlds, so that’s an easy separation. And then it became, what is the use? Well, the cookbooks go in the kitchen because that’s where we use them. The knitting books I don’t need access to all the time. And they fit together on these two shelves nicely, so they’re going to go in the hallway.
Same thing with the to be read. Well, that fits perfectly on that new bookcase, and I pass it every time I walk down the hallway. So I get excited about what I can read next, which is an unexpected little bonus that I didn’t think about when I put it there. But, hey, I notice that I look at it every time, which is lovely!
Jorge: It feels really liberating for me to hear you say this because I tend to be kind of OCD about these things. And I have a bunch of oversized books and those always annoy me because I can’t put them with the other books of that subject because they just don’t fit, right?
Jorge: And they have to go on the bottom shelf because they’re heavier. And what I’m hearing here, which is something I need to hear, is like, “it’s okay!”
Chiara: It’s totally okay. So your friend and mine, Lou Rosenfeld, at one point, took all his books off all his shelves, put them in a giant pile in the middle of his living room and put them back on the shelves in random order. When all of us who were working at Argus who were mostly librarians heard this, there was a collective gasp. But he loved it at least for a while.
I don’t know if he still does this or not. But he did this because he said, I know I have a book about Julia Child and now I don’t know where it is. So I have to go through and look at all my stuff and I find other things I forgot I had. And that serendipity and sense of discovery and like, “oh wow! I forgot I had this thing!”
And he’s like, I go off on tangents and it’s like being in a bookstore and finding new things all the time. And that was what he was designing for, right? That sense of discovery and serendipity and just like what you happen to stumble upon. Which you go to an old bookstore and that’s part of the charm, right? You just start wandering the shelves.
Jorge: And I think that’s one of the big, big pros that physical books have over e-books. That they do allow that serendipity to happen. You just don’t run across old eBooks the same way that you run across old physical books, right? All right. That’s well that’s really, really cool.
I’m sure that we could we could geek out on ways to organize books for a while longer but I’ll just ask you one more question before closing here. Having just done this and knowing that you are preparing for this next undertaking that you’re going to start soon. What are some recommendations that you might have for people who are looking to better manage physical collections of books?
Chiara: I think one of the first questions to ask is why. So, figuring out that motivation. Why is it that you have the books? Is it something that… really, no, it’s just a design aesthetic, or you just want it for status or whatever. Which are… there’s no judgment on any of the reasons, right? They’re all perfectly valid.
But depending on what you want… your ‘why’ of having these book collections determines what you’re going to do with them. If you have a rare book collection and you’re buying them because it’s an investment, you’re going to treat them and organize them and take care of them in a very different way than if it’s the shelves of your children’s board books that they’re going to chew on and spit on and ripped to pieces, right? Like, it’s a whole different purpose.
And so you might put the board books in a basket on the floor, and you’re not going to do that with your first edition of Jane Austen. So once you figure out your why, that’s going to help you figure out those use cases that we were talking about. Does it make sense to have the cookbooks in the office downstairs when the kitchen is upstairs? You know? Like, how do you want to live with this? Is this a working library? Is it something that you’re going to be referencing? And if it’s a working library, you know it’s design books that you look things up and be like, how do I do a classification again? You know, what’s the best user research technique for this?
Whatever it is, then you need to make sure that your organization and however you have them is going to facilitate you quickly putting your fingers on that information, right? Because books are competing with the internet. It’s very easy to go to Google and just type what’s the best research method for evaluating classification systems and instead of reaching for the Polar Bear book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. And so, which is going to be faster? For me, it was always reach for the Polar Bear book because it’s right above my head. That’s where I put it.
Jorge: And there’s something very special about living surrounded by books. You used the phrase, “how do you want to live with this?” And I love that image and it feels like a good place to wrap up the conversation.
Chiara: Yeah, my dining room literally is my library. All four walls have bookcases! And so when we host folks for dinners, like we’re surrounded by books. I love that. It’s so cozy.
Jorge: No, I can totally relate. Where can folks follow up with you, Chiara?
Chiara: So I am online. You can probably find me easiest on LinkedIn or you can go to my website, chiaraogan.com. Those are probably the two. I don’t… I’m not really on Twitter anymore.
Jorge: And I would expect that you’ll keep the world up to date on your transition into this new stage of your life and what you’re doing there?
Jorge: Well, fantastic. Good luck as you embark on that and also keep us posted on how your library evolves.
Chiara: Always. It was so fun to talk about this with you today. Thank you.
Jorge: Same here. Thank you!