Dewey, LOC, Color

In the real world, I have recently moved.

I currently don’t own an ereader, but after packing and unpacking all those books, I want one just so I don’t have to pack so much next time! Of course, an ereader would only solve the problem of future books, not current books. My last major move was in 2007, and it inspired the post My Own Private Library. One of my big questions then, and still a big question, is — how to organize the books?

You’d think it would be easy, wouldn’t you? I mean, it’s not like the books were unorganized in the last place I lived. The thing is, the new place is a different set up, more rooms (yay), and bookshelves will be in different places. What books go where? What in the bedroom, the living room, the office?

Right now, I’m sorting the books into the following categories: personal library, professional library, review related. The first are, well, my own books. The second are ones that I have for professional reasons, titles like The Best in Children’s Books 1979-1984. Why, yes, I own the whole series; wait,  you don’t?

Another subset of professional are the books I’ve read for my current YALSA committee.

Finally, the review related is basically the books and ARCs to be read for this blog. Sadly, it looks like I will not have room for a kitchen bookshelf, which means I also have to decide where to put the cookbooks and magazines.

Review related will be organized by author; I’ve tried by publisher and by release date and neither quite worked for me.

My personal library will be mostly by author, with certain nonfiction subsets for history or biography. The professional library will be alpha by author.

The bigger question, and one I’m having a harder time judging, is what rooms these books go into so I don’t split them up. Here’s my big question — what’s the best way to go about doing this? My past method has been to first organize the books on the floor and then put it on the shelves, after I know how many titles, etc.

I also think I’m finally going to go ultra organized and actually enter everything into Library Thing. Is there an app for the iPhone I can download to scan barcodes to make that easier?

Tips, suggestions and advice are welcome, as are war stories on how you organized your own books.

20 thoughts on “Dewey, LOC, Color

  1. Book organization is one I am still tackling right now. Luckily I do have a separate bookcase for cooking/gardening/homesteading in the dining room, and two upstairs in the office for crafts and review copies. I tend to throw things on the shelves where I think I want them and then shelf read and sort after.

    While LibraryThing has their CueCat, it seems that most people are touting RedLaser as the app to use for scanning on the iPhone:


  2. Heh, I wrote about the same thing when I last moved!

    Our cookbooks are on shelves near (but not in) the kitchen. Everything else is in the office/library, broken into nonfiction, graphic novels and comics, and fiction, and then further subdivided by subject, genre, or audience. Fiction is all ordered by author’s last name. Nonfiction ordered by a weird sense of topics flowing into one another so that books that exist in the intersection of Subject A and Subject B can sit between them. It’s sort of weird, but it works well for us.


  3. I dug around in LibraryThing’s help wiki and found the following after a few moments of searching:

    “I’ve found an iPhone App called ZBar. It’s free and seems to work well for my first few attempts. I open the app, click the scan icon (a camera), position the lens over the bar code and it usually picks up the scan in a few seconds and then beeps. I tap the scan icon again and it’s ready for the next book. After scanning about six books, I was able to click an email icon and send all six scans to my account in one message where I opened up an editor to extract out the lines beginning with “ISBN-13″. Then I just copied and pasted into the Universal Importer. I did have one book it refused to scan. It might have had some glue residue on the code. When I’m ready to start work, I’ll see how it handles a hundred books at a time. –Vicwong 14:05, 19 February 2011 (EST)”

    Good luck! I gave up on LibraryThing a ways back, especially once they made it so you can only add 200 books for free, but if it works for you, awesome. I think since I’ve become more invested in GoodReads, I might use that to fully catalog my library.


  4. My hubby does the organizing of the books, so they get categorized as “adult” and “kids”. But he’s very particular about making sure they’re alphabetized, and gets annoyed when the kids take them off the shelves. I suppose, if we had the shelf space/room in the house, I’d organize by fiction/non-fiction, with subcategories in fiction… but maybe that’s obsessive.


  5. The amount of books I had to pack and unpack during my last move has kept me in the same cramped apartment for almost a decade. Maybe I, too, should just get an ereader…

    On the organization/LibraryThing note, once you get everything into LibraryThing, you can sort everything by author, title, LC classification, date, publisher, and on and on. It’s nice to be able to test out what would end up next to what without committing to moving actual books around.

    Personally, my books are split into fiction and non-fiction, and I have recently pulled the YA/MG fiction onto its own bookcase so that the (huge) overflow from my fiction wall wouldn’t become a problem. Poetry, plays, short stories, and biographies/memoirs are all in their own sections alpha by author, and the rest of my non-fiction is organized into broad categories of about 5-10 books each (literary criticism, feminist and gender studies, Irish history, theology and religious studies, linguistics). I drives me a little bit nuts that people like Virginia Woolf and Jeanette Winterson show up in multiple places, so I often toy with the idea of reorganizing just by author. But when it comes right down to it, I can’t stand the idea of The Wind-Up Girl shoved between Lauren Bacall’s memoir and Balanchine’s 101 Stories of the Great Ballets.

    I may be a bit of a control freak about this though.


  6. Laugh all you like about organizing by color, but it happened to me. My sister is an interior designer, and she came over and reorganized my office bookshelves by color. I have to agree that it looks nice, but I haven’t yet had to find a particular book so I can’t say anything about how easy (not likely) or difficult (more likely) it is to find something. I noticed all the gardening books are in the green section, so that’s helpful, I suppose….


  7. I feel your pain, having recently moved, myself. My books are all on shelves (well, mostly), but not in any sort of order. In this apartment, all of my books will be in the living room. I’m still trying to figure out how I want to organize them.

    As for LibraryThing, I love it, and found that a lifetime membership is well worth the cost ($25 is less than the cover price of many a hardcover book, after all — and I believe you can actually pay less, if that amount is truly a hardship), and I love how much more accurate and customizable their data is than similar book-cataloging sites. I don’t have an iPhone, so can’t help you on the app question, but I know that if you can find a barcode-reading app, it’s possible to bulk-import a list of ISBNs, which should really speed the process up for you.


  8. Oh, I feel your pain! I have moved MANY times (husband in military — but we moved three times in Germany when his post didn’t change when landlords kicked us out). One time, I followed the brilliant plan of numbering the bookshelves (12 or so large bookshelves), put the books in the boxes in order, and labelled the box with the number of the bookshelf.

    That particular move, my husband asked for more shelves in our largest bookcase after the move. He was mad at me for being put out by that — but then I had to reorganize everything!

    And though it does still help significantly to number the bookshelves and the boxes to match, in your new place, the bookcases inevitably end up in different rooms from where they were before, so you want different books there.

    This last move, I went for books I’ve read and would love to share and talk about downstairs; books I want to read upstairs in my bedroom. (Okay, I have four bookshelves in my bedroom…) I try to organize the shelves by type of book. I’ve got photo albums, German books, and travel memoirs all in a huge double-wide bookcase in the living room. Nicely bound good-looking books and oversize books (like knitting books) in another bookcase in the living room. I’ve gotten picture books down to only one bookcase, with the Harry Potters in both English and German and HP#1 in about 6 languages. For the books I’ve read and love, I tried to put kids’ books in one bookcase and adult books in another, but have run out of room.

    Worst of all, I’m finding that the only books I read are the books in piles around my bed! Aaugh!

    But I admit, I love it. Surrounded by friends! But there may be a reason the same friends who helped me move in when I came to Virginia all seemed to be busy when I needed help moving to my current apartment!


  9. I’ve rearranged my books at least three times this past year … right now it’s cookbooks in the kitched (I have a desk that I don’t use that I put there and there’s some shelf space on it), non-fiction in milkcrates sorted out by subject (I don’t have much there so it isn’t a problem), and fiction in the bookcases by author last name. My to-read pile is either on my coffee table (more urgent to-read) or in a milkcrate stacked under the non-fiction (less urgent to-read). I also have a stack of fiction in a box because I ran out of room in my bookcases. I still don’t have all my books from growing up, so my organization will definitely change again when I get a new bookcase and if/when I get my books from my mom’s storage.


  10. We moved into our current house 12 years ago but into our current bedroom 8 years ago and I still am not 100% happy with how our books are organized. Here’s the basic setup:
    In our bedroom are floor to ceiling bookshelves that hubby built for me (he’s awesome!) –
    those have:
    1- fiction (fantasy, teen and children’s including all the British HPs)
    2 – cookbooks. Those are arranged by subject – Mexican, Vegetarian, Kosher, etc.
    3 – overflow larger cookbooks, BBQ and smoking, Gardening
    4 – crafts (beading, knitting, embroidery, scapbooking), home repair, aquarium related, dogs, mythology, Judaism, sociology
    5 – Fiction
    6 – oversize reference type books, yearbooks, photo albums

    Then there is a large bucket of library books and arcs in the den and a large bucket of kids books plus the kids each have a bookcase in their rooms and there is absolutely no order that I can discern in those. Drives me mad!


  11. Kristi, I think I may be able to have some cookbooks in the dining room. I also may pull the historical ones (like Medieval cooking) and interfile them with my history books. I’ll play with RedLaser — or, rather, Tom Sawyer my niece and nephew into thinking scanning all my books into the computer is as fun as painting a fence.

    Gretchen, ha, my nonfiction also tends to be weird to everyone but me in organization. And I forgot about graphic novels; I don’t have a lot, but it makes sense to shelve them in their own area.

    Melissa, ZBar sounds…. complicated. Honestly, I haven’t used any of the online places very much, but it just feels like creating a catalogue for my books could ultimately make my life easier.

    Melissa, I’ll probably/maybe/not sure will separate kids, YA & adult. Well, picture books for sure.

    lawral, such a relief to know i’m not the only one who thinks about these things! like, I want all my Sylvia Plath stuff together (yes, I’m one of those. or at least was.) so her book, poems, books about her, all have to be together regardless.

    lisa, I’m sure you have the prettiest shelves!

    misti, thanks! I know I have to have some order, just to stop me from the infamous buying a book I already known purchases. I cannot be the only one who has done that.

    sondy, those are some serious moves.

    hm, you all have me wondering — what do you think about hardcover and paperback? filed together or apart?


  12. Ilene, floor to ceiling bookcases… Is there a ladder? My dream house has a library with a ladder to get to the high shelves. Good point about oversize books; I also tend to sort/shelve depending on the depth of the bookshelf. Some are better for coffee table type books, others for paperbacks. I’m wondering, when was the last time NJLA had a home library program at their conference? I know they’ve had them but am blanking as to when and who did it.


  13. I shelve my books based on my personal feelings about them (the authors I love get to be closest to the bed). Alphabetization has never darkened my doors–once away from the bed, it’s all based on genres and sub-genres and sub-cataories. Like the British books about ballet shelf, or the wholesome American classics (Betsy-Tacy, Beany Malone) section.

    The non-fiction does something along the lines Gretchen describes–waves of subject flowing gently into each other–chickens to compost to Darwin’s book about worms to natural history observed (ie Annie Dillard) to other science things (ie Oliver Sacks)….etc.


  14. Definitely sort the books on the floor before starting to put them on the shelves! As for order, when we finally get the bookcases assembled the cookbooks will go on the shelves closest to the kitchen. Other nonfiction will be roughly sorted by Dewey (no sorting finer than 920, 930, &c), and fiction will all be in one single run by author (no separate sections for genre, and kid’s books mixed in with adults’).


  15. Oh, yes – mass-market paperbacks on the upper shelves, hardbound and trade paperbacks on the lower, but otherwise as above. And the Britannica and OED will probably be in the living room, not the library.


  16. We have four seven-foot-high bookcases in our living room…still overflowing with books all over. They are shelved mostly by subject/genre: fantasy, manuals and handbooks, spiritual, oversized, holiday (they take up two shelves–Santa brings a new Christmas book each year), kid’s fiction, classics, yearbooks, cookbooks, and picture books. Of course, the coffee table, floors in bedrooms, and my desk are just a mess of books!


  17. For the really really loved paperbacks, I do keep them on the bottom shelves of the bookcase with those books. (Example: favorite children’s fiction bookcase). Of course, I’ve got the pretty hardbacks on the more obvious higher shelves. I don’t worry about specific order on the shelves except putting an author’s books together.

    For other mass-market paperbacks, I actually have a small out-of-the way bookcase with them stacked on their sides and some in front of others. (I know, horrors!) Mostly, though, the paperbacks are in the piles… (Argh! I’m starting to feel guilty about my book warren.)


  18. Oh, this was fun. My almost-17-year-old son just completed a summer project of cleaning his room. He said, “I have too many books. I don’t know where to put them. My bookshelves are full.” I’m afraid I just laughed. Then I said, “There’s not room for another bookcase, is there?” He thinks maybe there is, now that he’s moved some of the piles! So he may get a bookcase for his birthday. Like we don’t have enough… But I figure that means I raised him right!


  19. Charlotte, I like your system! But imagine the authors who come visit to your house, eyeing the bookcases, wondering if they’re in a good place or not!

    RM1, interesting to have the paperbacks on a higher shelf. I’m not sure I could shelf by genre because I would drive myself nuts trying to decide which genre to use.

    Chris, my holiday books are packed away with hoiday decorations and I take them out with the ornaments etc.

    Sondy, trying to figure out where to put another bookcase, always fun. I guess that’s another question, what furniture to put in front of a bookcase…


  20. One problem with Dewey on Library Thing is that more books have LOC codes then Dewey.
    But if you go with a decimal system I’ve been developing a spine label system that takes decimal like Dewey and maps it to a subject map and puts both on the label.


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