From Laura Miller, the New York Times.
In order to have the walls of my diminutive apartment scraped and repainted, I recently had to heap all of my possessions in the center of the room. The biggest obstacle was my library. Despite what I like to think of as a rigorous “one book in, one book out” policy, it had begun to metastasize quietly in corners, with volumes squeezed on top of the taller cabinets and in the horizontal crannies left above the spines of books that had been properly shelved. It was time to cull.
For the most part, I’ve been pragmatic in my purging, and for years reference books were the most likely survivors. I needed them for work, for those occasions when I suddenly had to know at what age Faulkner published “Absalom, Absalom” (39) or the name of the Greek muse of lyric poetry (Euterpe). Now the Internet can tell me all that. Apart from the rare reference that’s worth reading in its own right, like David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film, these titles have been drifting away as the trust I’m willing to put in Wikipedia gradually equalizes with the faith I’ve invested in, say, Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia. (It doesn’t help that reference books tend to be shelf hogs.)