Do you have piles of books that need to be organized? Do you need a system that organizes your continuously growing stacks of books? I sure do. After years of trying lots of organizational ideas for my personal library, I have finally hit upon something that works for me. Perhaps my system will give you some ideas that will help you find a way to organize your own books, because I believe that every home should have a library full of really great books!
During my home schooling years, I’ve lived in five different homes. In each home, my books have been spread throughout our house. In two of them, I have had very large school rooms with tons of book shelves. In one of them, I have had an average sized room with several stand alone book shelves in it. In two of them, I have had very little space to store books and no separate school room. So, in each home, I have found ways to be creative in organizing and storing my books. If I have needed more book shelf space, I have used the shelves in the tops of my closets to store categories of books that don’t require frequent access. Regardless of the school room book storage space, I like to put small shelves of books in each of my kids’ rooms so they can have some of their favorite books near their beds. In one house, I have converted a walk-in closet in our game room into a tiny library by arranging floor to ceiling book shelves on all 3 walls, being very pleased with the several hundred books that I managed to store in it. I always keep at least a few books in the public rooms of our home, whether it's on book shelves or in baskets.
Because I like to keep books in most rooms throughout my home regardless of how much shelf space I’ve had in my school room, I must have a good organizational system. For example, in my current home, I have no school room at all and at least 2500 books that I need to be able to easily draw from on a near daily basis. As I’ve tried various organizational methods, I’ve even considered using the Dewey Decimal System. However, that has never seemed to fit my goal of making the books so easy to re-shelve that even young children can consistently replace them.
After years of experimenting, I’ve finally decided that a topical system works for me. Using a labeler, I’ve placed labels on the spine of each book, such as GARDEN, CHILD TRAINING, POETRY, BUDGETING, ORGANIZING, SPELLING. I’ve broken down many of my science books into the days of creation, labeling DAY 1 through DAY 6 on the spine of each book that falls into those categories and placed them on their own shelves. For instance, all books about dinosaurs are labeled DAY 6, while all books about planets are labeled DAY 4. I’ve labeled all fiction literature with the author’s last name and shelved them in labelled alphabetical order on their own shelves. In my current home, these shelves are located in my laundry room. It's an unusual place to put books, but it works well for my family.
History has been a little more complicated. I’ve tried labeling them with their time frames, such as EGYPT, ROME, MIDDLE AGES, WW1, etc.. Though I have used this system in the past, I've found it to be cumbersome because there's too much overlap in civilizations and themes. The more I use my books, the more confusing the system feels. I've finally realized that I can put the date on the spine of the book and shelve them in chronological order. If a book is non-fiction, determining the date is fairly simple. If it is historical fiction, I simply make an educated guess as to where it might fit into the timeline. For example, Within the Palace Gates: The King’s Cupbearer by Anna P Siviter is a fictional account of Nehemiah, so I’ve dated the book at 455-442BC, which is approximately the date that historians date Nehemiah. This date on the spine not only indicates where to shelve the book, it also tells me that the book covers several years of Nehemiah's life. Additionally, I have a section of historical books that are simply resources for all of time. Those are shelved at the beginning of my history section and labeled HISTORY RESOURCES.
This system makes it VERY easy for everyone to re-shelve the books. And I no longer have to make lists of books that I want to use. I can now simply stand in front of the section of bookshelves that is housing the time period that we are currently studying and pull the next book that I want to use. My bookshelves ARE my planning notes!
I’ve been using this method for several years now. The hard part was determining the system that I would use and to continue to tweak it until I felt it was finally perfected. The system that now works so well for me took years to perfect. As a result, I’ve been reaping the rewards of a system that works very well in my home. It has worked in two different homes with two distinctly different storage options, with virtually no changes needed in my labelling system.
How do you organize your personal library? Do you ever use baskets to store books? Do you study history in chronological order in your home school?
I LOVE books! I love to read! I love to research! This love has caused me to collect MANY hundreds upon hundreds of books throughout the years. From the time I was a young girl in early elementary school, my mom gave me a regular allowance to buy books and I've continued the habit of buying and reading books for my entire life. I still have some of my favorite books from my childhood and I've had the pleasure of reading many of them with my own children.
Having always owned lots of books, I haven’t always understood the importance of having a large personal library of books. The importance grew as I noticed that finding books was becoming more and more difficult due in part to the new trend towards ebooks and e-readers. But honestly, my desire to build my own personal library probably started before the availability of digital books.
One day a little more than 20 years ago, I took my children into the large downtown library to find books on making model boats and various ways to power them. We were doing a study on Christopher Columbus with a group of friends and we’d challenged all of the kids to build their own boat that would be able to float from one side of an in-ground pool to the other. Each of my kids took home several titles and busily worked on making their own boat creations, exploring several science concepts as they did so. The project was a great success for both the kids and the parents involved.
A decade later, I once again was teaching a group of kids some science concepts that would best be learned by giving them the project of building a boat. We loaded kids into the car and traveled to the same library that I’d used years ago. I looked in the section that should have been brimming with books on both the topic of boat building and on making simple machines. Finding none, I asked the librarian where they’d all gone. She informed me that, because they were trying to get more funding from the city, they’d emptied many of their shelves and sold them in the annual book sale so that their need for new books would be more apparent to local legislators and to voters. She further informed me that there few good titles on those types of non-fiction subjects being published anymore.
Over the next couple of years, I noticed the same problem in other libraries throughout DFW. Having already set a specific BOOKS budget line item in our personal budget years earlier, I was determined more than ever to build my own personal library. The books in my personal library range from children’s stories to Bibles, from non-fiction to fiction, from biographies to field guides, from cookbooks to how-to books. I have books on science topics such as bird watching, human anatomy, chemistry, nature exploration, and so much more! I have books on economics, finance, house repair and cleaning. I have reference materials such as dictionaries, grammar guides, thesauruses, concordances, biblical commentaries and historical timeline guides. I have instructional books on crafts such as beading, crocheting, sewing, drawing, painting, gardening, book-making and many more. I also have a large library of history books ranging from the beginning of creation to ancient time periods, to current biographies of important people and events.
While I own most of my favorite books in tangible paper format, I also own a small library of both audio and ebooks. The benefit of owning an audio book is that I can have someone read to me as I work with my hands doing mindless tasks like washing dishes or folding laundry. Additionally, the Audible app that I use allows me to bookmark and take notes, which gives me an outline so that I can quickly scan the book again in the future if I want to do so. The benefit of owning ebooks is that I can carry books with me wherever my iPhone, iPad or laptop goes. When I travel, having a small library that can travel with me is invaluable. However, there's nothing that takes the place of actually holding a book in my hands and smelling the aroma of the book as I feel the texture and weight while I read. When I want to study a topic, I not only pull up some trustworthy Internet sites on my laptop or perhaps an ebook or two, I also surround myself with my pile of books on the topic that I'm researching.
To keep from being overrun with books that we no longer need, I periodically go through my books and cull the ones that no longer meet the needs of my family. Culling books is sometimes easy, but often it’s hard. It’s a personal decision. One person’s favorite book might be another person’s next title to be donated. For me, I ask myself some questions similar to these:
At one time I realized that I had 15 different books written on the life of George Washington! I made myself review each book and choose my five favorites. That was a hard cull, but my space limitations required it at the time.
My goals for my library are:
Do you have a library of books in your home? Why or why not? If you do, what are your goals for your library? What are some of your favorite books?