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 ^_^


  • We have 510 books now (though I still have a few more, primarily textbooks, to add to the catalog).
  • The oldest book is 149 years old. The youngest was published in 2008.
  • We acquired 40 books this month (primarily at the book sale last Saturday at Well Fed Head).
  • Three of our books are only listed by one other person on LibraryThing.
  • I have read 236 of our books, and have 213 yet to read.
  • Fantasy Fiction is the largest genre in our library, accounting for 194 of our novels.
  • We have 11 Bibles, 2 of which are in Hebrew.
  • We have retained 23 of our textbooks (not counting the 10-20 I still need to add to the catalog later today).
  • So far, I’ve only done 1.5 bookshelves, and it has taken 9 boxes. I still have about 2.5-3 bookshelves to go.

One week

You may not have noticed a lull at SilverPen Publishing, but I certainly have. I’m up to three or four blog entries swirling around my head that I want to put on the Christian Newlyweds blog, I’ll have a book (that I’m reading) to review by probably later tonight, and while I haven’t thought much about what comes next in The Stormsworn Saga, I’d like to get back to writing a little fiction. In my defence, I did get some new (or, rather, old) poems up, as well as the tech article on Tuesday, but in general I’ve just been very non-writerly.

A week from today, we close on our house. “Close” is the housing-lingo for “place our signature on paper after paper that signifies the transfer of the house from the seller to the buyer and legally obligates the buyer to pay money for the house.” It’s also when we hand over the down payment and get the keys. In the meantime, I’ve been setting up everything for the move: getting the utilities taken care of, the phone transferred, ordering trash pickup service, etc. We’ve also gone and purchased the appliances and furniture we’ll need upon moving, and I’m taking next Friday off so I can be there when they deliver and install the new appliances.

On top of all this, last Monday (only 3 days ago now?) marked the beginning of the semester. Since my internship at FnC is over, I’m able to return to real classes that actually demand something of me. I only have one such class, a 300-level survey of Buddhism, but I imagine that it’s going to be quite a challenge. Monday and Tuesday of this week were each around 13-hour days, so last night I didn’t do anything but lie on the couch and read. Tonight, I hope to finish the book I’m currently reading so I can move on to Buddhism.

FnC, by the way, was really good on Tuesday. We’ve got a new worship team, and the two of them are such a huge blessing to us. I’m really excited to have them there, not least of which because I feel like it lets me off the hook in regards to leading worship. Not that I would have been terribly involved this year anyways, due to my busy schedule, but I would have felt more guilty for being less involved.

This semester’s going to be wild; I’m already anxious for it to be over. But on the bright side, September will be half gone before I realize it, I’m going to be so ridiculously busy in October that I won’t even notice it fly by, and then we’re in November (and Thanksgiving always surprises me when it comes around). Halfway through December, the semester’s over, and then it’s a whole new year.

Let’s hope I don’t acquire any more gray hairs before we ring it in.

God’s Blessing and Well-Made Plans

I just got a call from Doug, our landlord, to inform me that our apartment has been rented. This was one of the main concerns about buying a house; I mean, there’s the stress of things breaking and my having to fix them, or of the cost, the mortgage, longer commute to work, etc. But because we bought a house much sooner than we had anticipated (due to finding pretty much the perfect house), we still had a rental obligation.

Essentially, we were facing paying a mortgage in addition to rent for the next 4-10 months, or until the apartment was rented. Our lease isn’t up until the end of May, 2009, but we figured that it would be rented by January, 2009 at the latest (end of the fall semester). We’d hoped, of course, for a September rental, but that was a long shot.

But now it’s done, and that’ll save us well over $400/month. o/