Bottom Shelf Blues

Here’s a book lover emotion: I feel bad for books on the bottom shelf at the library. Some book lovers wax poetic over the smell of old books. I wring my hands over the lack of consideration for books on the bottom shelf. So sad.

The bottom shelf of books are just out of comfortable eye range and comfortable body range. They are so close, but so hard to get to. As I’m perusing the shelves, when I get to the second shelf from the bottom, I kind of hesitate before dipping all the way down. I mean, essentially, the books on the bottom shelf are practically on the floor. Ain’t nobody got time to get on the floor…or get back up. That’s a workout.

Inevitably, instead of continuing a downward book searching trek, and feeling contorted enough from the strain of the second shelf up. I just hope there’s no good books on the bottom shelf as I straighten back up and move one step over to the next shelf.

I feel like I’m doing a disservice to the possible literary finds hovering near my ankles, but there’s only so much physical work I’m willing to do. The library makes allowances for books on the top shelf above eye-level.

In the “back” of the library, where they keep the less popular books still in public eye but on more spatially economic shelving (taller shelves, no faced-out books, less open space) the library has thoughtfully placed those adorable library stools throughout. Those stools are great, but there just isn’t a tool to ease a body’s trip to bottom shelf.  A portable body-lowering crane is what I’m thinking. But for now, you and your joints are on your own.

I’ve spent a lot of time lugging these around libraries! The portable body-lowering crane is not-pictured.


Back in the popular section, the eye-level and slightly below eye level books are the only ones I randomly and mindlessly reach out and pick up.  There’s definitely some lazy involved. There are plenty of books to see comfortably without the effort of hunkering down to the ground level shelf.

When I’m looking for a specific title it’s bad enough if I realize it is all the way on the bottom shelf. But at least I have a target and I can swoop in and grab what I need. Of course, what’s worse is when I yoga myself to the lowest shelf only to find out I’ve mis-calculated the alphabet and the book I’m seeking is back on the top shelf of the next shelving bay. Deep knee bend for nothing!

And it’s all a matter of the librarian shift. As books are checked in and out the space between being the book on the bottom and, with a shift, the first book on the top of the next shelving bay must feel precariously close. This is literary product placement. It’s similar to why I can never find Tartar control Crest at Kroger. They keep it on the bottom shelf. It’s not as sexy as Crest 3D White Artic Fresh Toothpaste (a real thing, btw).

But this isn’t about why some books are relegated to the bottom or about my lack of limberness. This is about how the books on the bottom feel, and I would suggest some feel unloved. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to contort to the floor-level books. “I’m worth the effort,” these books whisper into the abyss. I’m also sure many of the bottom shelvers are smug, too.  When good bottom shelf books see a library patron pull a book off the shelf above them they whisper “You’ve made a mistake.” And they continue to quietly wait their turn.

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