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?