How to organise a home library

How to organise a home library

How to organise a home library

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If you have more than a few dozen books, it is sometimes difficult to find the right book when you need it. Organising your home library will ensure you will be able to quickly locate any book.

There are many ways to organise a home library. You can sort books alphabetically by subject or alphabetically by author. They can also be sorted according to size or collecting value. If you have many books and don’t specialise in any area, you can use the Dewey Decimal System. The system you choose will depend on the type of books and why you have them.

How to organise a home library - books in shelf inside room

Take a look at your books

Before you start sorting, look at the books. If your reading concentrates on favourite authors, organise the library by author. If you want to research information, organise it by subject. If all your books are about mysteries but you have a mix of original fiction mysteries, biographies about mystery writers and real-life mysteries, you will need a combination of these approaches.

What shelving space do you have available?

Next, look at your bookcases and other shelves. Will all your books fit on each shelf? Are some too tall for most shelves? There are two ways to approach this problem. One way is to pick out the books that are too tall for most of your shelves and sort them separately on the shelves where they will fit. The other is to sort these books normally, then lay them down on their sides in the proper places.

Separate fiction from non-fiction

The most common way of organising books in a home library is to separate fiction from non-fiction, then divide the non-fiction by subject and the fiction genre. Within each subject and genre, the books are organised alphabetically by title or author. It is more common to sort alphabetically by title in the non-fiction section and by author’s last name in the fiction section.

How to organise a home library - selective focus photo of pile of assorted title books

Keep sets of books together

It is visually pleasing to keep sets of books together on the same shelf. This will sometimes break other sorting rules, but that is not a problem. In fact, it is often easier to think of books in trilogies and other sets than it is to think of them separately. It is easier to find the three books of “The Lord of the Rings” or the six books about Jason Bourne when they are together than when they are broken up alphabetically by title or author.

Where a set is written by different authors, as with the Bourne books, sort them by the author with which you most associate them, or by “Bourne” if you are using titles. Some sets, such as the Nancy Drew series, are best sorted under “Nancy Drew” rather than by author or title.

Unwanted books

While sorting your books, you may discover titles you no longer want. Have a box ready for those books. Some of them may have resale value at a used bookstore or garage sale. You can also donate them to charity. Public libraries also sometimes accept private books, although many don’t have the space for new acquisitions.

Plan out shelf space

After all your books are sorted, it is time to plan out shelf space. In general, most space should be devoted to your largest categories. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. For example, you might want to keep cooking and recipe books close to the kitchen, or computer books in the home office. Place all your books on the proper shelves.

How to organise a home library

Set up a catalogue

If you have a very large library, it is a good idea to set up a catalogue. The best way to do this is to enter the information as you place the books in the correct order on the shelves. You can record your books manually in a small notebook, or electronically on an Excel spreadsheet or dedicated software. Most dedicated software will ask you for the title, author, fiction or non-fiction, subject, edition, and ISBN number. The advantage of electronic catalogues is that they are easily searchable.

Any organisational system is only as good as one’s ability to stick to it. When you are done with a book, return it to its original spot. That way, you won’t have to sort the books again for a long time. Instead, you can spend time enjoying your newly organised home library.

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