What should I put on my bookshelf at work?
November 28, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

What should I put on my bookshelves at work? Problem: I have no books. If I were to get some books, they should be related to student development/higher education administration.

My office came with a thing like this with three shelves, all about three feet long. I work in higher education administration and I meet with students all day long in my office. I recently moved to a new city and sold all of my books before the move. I don't have anything from grad school -- I don't even have a dictionary! As a result, my bookshelf looks very, very sad. I am currently filling some of the space with a few binders, a few scholarly journals, and that's about it. I have plans to get a few pictures framed, and I might put a small shelf clock on it. That's all I can think of! I have no idea how to fill this space ..... should I buy some books? If so, which ones? Is it cheesy to just go out and get copies of student development/higher ed admin books? Maybe this is a good opportunity to do some essential reading? What are the must-have books/things that I should get?
posted by TurkishGolds to Work & Money (20 answers total)
Do you have any favorite books?
posted by goethean at 12:59 PM on November 28, 2012

If you wanted to to have fun with it, you could get some of these adorable little guys.
posted by phunniemee at 1:00 PM on November 28, 2012

Goethean -- not really. I'm not a big reader. I have some self-help books at home, but don't really want to bring those into the office. I wish I'd kept some of my grad school text books, but my degree wasn't totally related to this job, so I don't know if I would have wanted those in here anyway. I guess I'm looking for general suggestions and also student development / higher ed admin essential reading.
posted by TurkishGolds at 1:02 PM on November 28, 2012

In my office(s), I always like to have:
A dictionary
An AP Stylebook (or whichever guide your school has as its official style guide)
The Elements of Style (Strunk and White)

I would also recommend:
How to Win Friends and Influence People - if you haven't yet read this, do. It's a classic for a reason. You will find something relevant from it, and it's the type of book you can take in small chunks.

Some type of how to write correspondence for all situations book.

All of these books are good for the professional world, in general.

I would also display any framed degrees and/or licenses.
posted by FergieBelle at 1:03 PM on November 28, 2012

I have The Book of Stupid Questions just for the people who say they have a stupid question.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:04 PM on November 28, 2012

Thanks, FergieBelle -- great suggestions. My degrees are already framed and hung on the wall.
posted by TurkishGolds at 1:05 PM on November 28, 2012

Just because your office comes with bookshelves doesn't mean you have to put books on them, since in this day and age it is entirely possible to carry around all your books on your eReader.

The top of that unit is probably made to disconnect from the bottom. So I would do one of two things: (a) fill the shelves with whatever decorative stuff turns you on (pottery, baskets, your antique camera collection, whatever) or, (b) call the facilities people and ask them to remove the top and put it in storage. Keep the bottom for file storage. Then again, who keeps files anymore? Maybe you can send the bottom away as well.
posted by beagle at 1:07 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or if you want to impress, Books by the Yard. Probably not impressive to students, though.
posted by beagle at 1:09 PM on November 28, 2012

I'm in a doctoral program in education. Among the things I've bought two copies of, one for work and one for home, are the APA Publication Manual, the Shorter OED, a good thesaurus, and because I'm old-fashioned and fusty, Fowler's Modern English Usage. Of the ed books that I would keep on my shelves are George Keller's Higher Education and the New Society and Latchem and Hanna's Leadership for 21st Century Learning.

You might also want to consider some of the better business books, including The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge.

I also kept a large container (think cookie jar size) of individually wrapped candy and chocolate on my shelves. It made my office the go-to place for students and colleagues.
posted by angiep at 1:16 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Office supplies.

Or just wait a while. I'm sure in time you will have plenty of handouts, manuals, Internal Office Policy documents, etc. that you will need to keep and have a place to put them, and thus will have MORE than enough stuff to put on those shelves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Along the line of Fowler's, consider Garner's Modern American Usage. It's surprisingly readable (and snark-ridden) for a grammar reference book. If you're doing any writing at all in your position, you might find it extremely useful. (I can't echo the praise for The Elements of Style, I'm afraid, but many people seem to like it.)

Disclaimer: I used to read this thing for fun whenever I had a few free minutes. YMMV.
posted by cellar door at 1:37 PM on November 28, 2012

Also: Yeah, I wouldn't worry about it too much as a rule. Things tend to pile up, so more likely than not you'll eventually have plenty of stuff to put there.
posted by cellar door at 1:39 PM on November 28, 2012

So I have your job (not really) but I also work in higher ed and meet with students all day, and have a bookcase. I put all my grad school books on it - "The History of Higher Education", "A Legal Guide for Student Affairs Professionals", "Career Development and Counseling", "Making the Most of College" etc. along with journals from relevant organizations.

Honestly? Save your money. Not one kid in four years has said anything about my books. I'm not sure they've even seen them. I have, however, gotten comments on and started conversations using my family photos, my bulletin board items, and the pictures on my walls.
posted by bibbit at 2:16 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twelfthing not worrying about it.

I'm in the same situation, also at a university -- new office, and because the walls are made of shelves, I can't even hang up my old whiteboard. Ah, well.

Definitely check in with folks in your main communications office about their chosen editorial style. Usually places go with AP for news releases, etc. For scholarly writing, it never hurts to have Chicago around (we also use Chicago for our magazine features, as opposed to our short-form stuff), and APA will likely be popular if you're in social science. But Chicago and AP are the biggies. Of course, they're typically available online, but if you find a cheap but pretty used copy at a local bookstore, that's good. AP, especially, comes out with a new version every year, but... meh. Not that different.

Difficult Conversations
Fostering Sustainable Behavior -- this is a cool book for understanding people's motivation for change, which is always crucial for students!

How about going around to your affiliated departments and seeing what they have to share -- campus maps to hand out, glossy books celebrating the past 100 years of the college, etc.? It's actually pretty helpful to have histories of the institution. I also keep pamphlets like the arts schedules, etc.

And then get a decent-looking covered box or two, anything from a nice Ikea photo storage box to something carved and polished... and put the rest of your little crap in it.
posted by Madamina at 2:24 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have students bring in their favorite books and start a bookswap: students can take any book if they put a new book on the shelf. You'll get enough people volunteering to give two books for the one they take that you can probably boot up from 0 books to a full shelf pretty quick.
posted by brenton at 3:23 PM on November 28, 2012

Fake plants
Porcelain clown figurines
posted by ecorrocio at 4:11 PM on November 28, 2012

I work in an office with a bunch of student development staff. Very few of them have books on their shelves. Instead, the shelves are filled with fun and interactive things that students can grab or use or laugh at.

- framed posters
- stress relievers
- office supplies - markers, pens, construction paper
- garlands
- bowls with candy
- kids books

Sure, having books makes you seem more legitimate. But having stuff that students actually want shows that you know the way to a college student's heart - candy and Dr. Seuss.
posted by frizz at 4:52 PM on November 28, 2012

Fancy globe.
posted by Pomo at 5:30 PM on November 28, 2012

Have you considered accenting with a plant? One shelf of books, one shelf of luxuriously stretched out plant (eg philodendron*) and one shelf shelf for personal effects/diplomas etc? Books are expensive, philodendrons & family photos are not.

*Hugely light/water tolerant, practically mandatory as an indoor office plant.
posted by Ys at 6:43 PM on November 28, 2012

Definitely conversation starters instead of books for show.

I would encourage you to use the shelves to emphasize your accesible humanity:

Photo of you with friends engaged in a hobby / activity
Something like a globe that you like
A couple of high quality fidget toys - like this or this

And a plant that looks healthy or funky. Peace Lilies also fit the bill.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:53 PM on November 28, 2012

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