Horace Mann once said, “A house without books is like a room without windows.” Bibliophiles are probably nodding their head in agreement over this sentiment. But what we might not agree on is how to display those books. There are so many ways to set up and showcase a home library! Whether borrowing books from the library and placing them on shelves or purchasing personal copies, it’s important to have an arrangement in place that works or, in some cases, is just fanciful to the eye.
Before taking on any library organization project, remove all the books and personal affects from the shelves and place them in piles on the floor. As titles are being pulled off, assess whether or not they add value to the collection. If they don’t, feel free to pass them along to a fellow bookworm or an organization that accepts used books (including the library). Be sure to wipe down the shelves with a damp rag before placing literature back on them.
At this time, those with larger collections may want to consider cataloging their books. Library Thing is a great online tool for managing inventory. Books can be uploaded by entering the ISBN number (the 10 or 13 digit code on the back of the covers by the barcode). Those savvy with technology may even be able to generate a spreadsheet with similar information. Want to learn more about book tracking and recording tools? We wrote a blog post about them last year.
Next comes the fun part: organizing! Here at the library we use the Dewey Decimal Classification to keep everything in order and easy to retrieve, but for a home library, you may want to consider one of the following methods:
Taste the rainbow by placing books on the shelf according to their spine color. This method provides whimsy and a visual splash, but isn’t always practical. Color coding works well for those with smaller collections or those who don’t mind taking the extra time to hunt down a particular title.
If recalling the name of an author or the title of a book comes easily, then sorting alphabetically might make the most sense. For people who fall in the all-I-remember-is-what-the-cover-looked-like or I-only-remember-the-name-of-the-main-character camp, another method might work best.
BY SUBJECT OR GENRE
Avid non-fiction readers may want to consider arranging books by subjects of interest: art, gardening, Civil War, cooking, biographies, etc. Fiction lovers, especially those who read a wide variety, may want to corral their literature into genres such as mysteries, sci-fi, historical fiction, etc.
Sometimes the design of the bookshelf itself dictates the placement of books. For those situations, grouping by size makes the most sense. Shorter books go on shorter shelves, taller books go on taller shelves.
There are other less orderly ways to display books for those who prefer throwing care to the wind. From stacked up piles to the very controversial “backwards books” method that’s cropped up recently, these arrangements can convey a sense of chaos, serendipity, mystery or rebellion.
Still can’t make up your mind about how to best approach your home library? There’s an entire book about arranging books (how meta!) that can be borrowed from the library:
Books Make A Home: Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books by Damian Thompson
Books fulfill myriad functions in our lives. They provide information, foster our enthusiasms and spark our memories. But these personal treasures also add colour and a true sense of personality to our homes. Books Make a Home explores the important role they play as decoration, as well as functional items. Author and bibliophile Damian Thompson tours the rooms of the home in turn – Living Rooms, Home Libraries & Studies, Kitchens, Bedrooms & Bathrooms, Corridors & Staircases and Children’s Spaces – discovering a host of techniques for stacking, shelving and closeting volumes, and illustrating how each space can be brought to life by books. Alongside inspirational photography is a wealth of practical design solutions for each space and every size of collection. You will learn how to make the best use of existing storage and create new space for an evergrowing collection; how to combine books with other personal effects to create eye-catching displays; and helpful feature spreads will illustrate how to organize and care for your books. Beautifully presented and elegantly written, scattered with quotes from famous readers throughout, Books Make a Home is an insightful guide to enjoying books with the eye as well as with the mind.
If you have a personal library, how do you prefer to organize your books, if at all? Tell us over on our Facebook page!