Building and Organizing a Home Library

You know that I already recommend using LibraryThing to catalog your home library, but how should it be done, and where should you start?

How do you want to organize the books?

First, you need to decide how you want things done. Will you organize by the author’s last name, by genre, or by title? Just about any criterion is acceptable, so long as it works for you. The key is that you have an easier time finding your books, because otherwise, what’s the point?

Personally, I organize by genre. Within the genre, I organize by the author’s last name. And within an author, I organize by publication date. This (usually) keeps series together, which makes it easy to find trilogies and other series. It also gives me some room to expand.

If you organize alphabetically, make sure to leave some space throughout your shelving, otherwise you won’t have any room for new books in the future and will have to shift things around a lot. One of the strengths of the Dewey Decimal System, for instance, is how much space it gives you to expand. Unfortunately, if you have a limited amount of shelving space (like most home libraries do), it just isn’t practical. Take all this into account before you start shelving.

Cataloging the books

Second, you need to get all of the books cataloged so you know in what order they should be arranged on the shelf. Of course, I recommend LibraryThing, but this is where you implement your decisions from the organizational step.

If you’re using a service that has tags, try and keep your tags consistent. It’ll make things harder on you down the road to have some books tagged scifi and some as science fiction. I sometimes find it helpful, especially when adding books later if I haven’t done it in a while, to open up my list of tags and find already established tags to use.

Once you have them cataloged, it’s time to start shelving.

Putting everything away

You’ve probably got books spread out all over the place by this point, but be assured, the cataloging was the hard part. Putting them on the shelves is relatively quick and easy. As I mentioned earlier, leave yourself some room for expansion, maybe a blank shelf at the bottom of each book shelf or room for 1-2 books per shelf, depending on how often/quickly you tend to buy new books.

Moving your library

When we moved in September of 2008, I had to unshelve the carefully arranged 500+ volumes from our bookshelves and transport them to the new location. This is actually easier than you might think, provided you plan ahead.

Though it means using a few more boxes than you might otherwise, you can place books into boxes in the order they were shelved, making it easy to restore them to their rightful places once you’re all moved. I used a bunch of boxes I was able to get from work that printer paper comes in, and I took books off the shelf and put them straight into the box without stacking or wrangling them.

Less books per box meant more boxes, but it also meant they were easier to carry and easier to restore to the shelves. Each box was labeled with the genre and a number, so Fantasy Fiction had 1 through 12, while Young Adult had 1 through 3. Then, I just unboxed them in order where I wanted them on the shelves. This made restoring our library a lot easier and faster than it otherwise would have been.

Share your stories

What tricks do you have for accomplishing what is sometimes a monumental task? How did you setup your home library?

I hope this series has been helpful for you. I’m certainly glad I was able to write it, as taking a more in-depth view at these three cataloging services has made me appreciate my own setup all the more. Now, I think it’s time to actually go do some reading ^_^

Eighty and Out

We had a retirement/going-away party for one of my co-workers yesterday afternoon. He was the first supervisor I had when I started working for Computer Services as a student worker in 2003, and as we gathered in the ballroom on the third floor of Plaster Student Union, I looked around and wondered if I would be standing there thirty years from now with my name on a cake and too many tables set up in my honour.

Part of me hopes so. As Samir says in Office Space, it would be nice to have that kind of job security. By then, my yearly raises in addition to equity adjustments in my salary (to keep in line with inflation) would put me at a fairly comfortable income level, my retirement would be well funded, and I would have been doing something I rather enjoy for thirty years.

But I don’t know that I’ll get there. The dream is, of course, to become a well-enough published author to be able to live off the income that writing provides. I recognize that, realistically speaking, this dream is unlikely. Most authors get paid about $10-20k for a book, and only write about one book a year, which is simply not enough to live on, let alone support a family.

I can dream, and if I was doing it full time, I think I could keep up a pace similar to Pratchett, who writes two books a year on average. There are so many topics I want to write on that it could easily fill my time. Regardless, I don’t intend to leave any time soon. Within my five-year plan is to write a book on the modern help desk and how our position is evolving. Where would I get my research if I left?

I’m not quitting my day job, and I certainly wouldn’t mind retiring from Missouri State University in thirty years (at the ripe old age of 51, amusingly enough), but I’m not sure my path lies only along this road.