How You Organize Your Home Library

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For someone with a degree in Library Science, I'm really bad at organizing a home library. Until yesterday I only owned two bookshelves (one of them half-sized), but had perfected the art of book-stacking (and book-cramming -- placing more volumes above the regular row of books...), so each shelf holds twice its normal complement of books.

So yesterday I bought a new set of bookshelves -- they're the "LACK" series from IKEA. I'm faced with a new challenge: how to organize all these books? Looking around the web, there seem to be a few major options -- but I'm wondering how you have dealt with this challenge?

Here are the options I'm currently considering:

Library Software

Delicious Library (a Mac application) can easily import my smallish library, including CDs and DVDs. It scans barcodes using my computer's built-in camera and looks them up on Amazon, retrieving cover art and details about the item. This app also helps me lend items to friends, including setting "due dates" and tracking who has not returned something. Very nice, and $40 (for Mac only, screenshot above).

LibraryThing is a web application that catalogs your books online, incorporating some social networking features -- like you can look up former flosser (now prominent novelist) John Green's author page and even see his personal library contents. It's free for people with up to 200 books, and cheap ($25 for a lifetime membership) after that. My friend Lyza switched from Delicious Library to LibraryThing when her library grew too large to practically manage with the desktop application...so LibraryThing looks like a very scalable option.

Shelving Methods

There are various ways to shelve books -- you can do it with Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress Classification...but both of these are pretty heavy for a personal collection.

The aforementioned John Green organizes his home library using an idiosyncratic method derived from both broad and narrow categorizations of his collection. Check out this complete tour with sections including "First Editions of Books About Conjoined Twins."

So let's hear it: how do you organize your home library? I'd love tips as I start assembling my new shelves and uncramming the old ones!

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December 17, 2007 - 4:45am
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