“I’m a bibliomaniac and I homeschool… my house looks like a war zone created by huge piles of books and papers. I need a doable plan! Help!”
Oh my…I feel your pain, and also feel totally unqualified to answer this question. Is there a Bibliomaniacs Anonymous group? If so, I’ll meet you there!
We have book shelves in every room of the house. I’d like a library room, to have beautifully organized books all in one place, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon. So… I’ll share the system that (mostly) works for me.
1. Decide how you would like your books sorted. You could sort them by genre, alphabetically, by subject, by author, by Dewey Decimal System, or any other system that works for you. I use a combination of many of these systems. I sort my books in the following way:
a. History – Because we study history chronologically, I only need the era we are currently studying to be easily accessible. For this purpose, I have a book case in my living room, where my children do their schoolwork, which I use solely for our history rotation. I’ve found that a large file cabinet works quite well to store the history books and media go-alongs that are not currently in use. Each file drawer contains an era, i.e. ancients, middle ages, renaissance/reformation, and modern. I simply rotate the era in use to the livingroom bookcase when needed.
b. Geography – further sorted by continent, then country
c. Science – I sort my science books into Plants, Animals, Human Anatomy, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Ecology, Meteorology, Geology, etc. and put labels on the shelf edges so books can easily be found and returned.
d. Arts and Crafts – I group together art history, biographies, how-to-draw books, misc. how-to books, cartooning books, craft books, music and composer books.
e. Literature – I keep all of my classics together, poetry books together, short story collections together, picture books together, serial books together, etc.
g. Reference and Text
h. Recipe Books (sorted by cuisine type)
i. Medical Books
j. Gardening Books
k. Bibles and Study Aides
2. In case you didn’t know, bibliomania can be genetic ;-), so encourage your children to develop their own systems of book organization with their personal collections. My oldest daughter likes to keep her antiques together, her Native American books together, and her author collections together, organized alphabetically.
3. Start separating your books into stacks depending on what system you chose. As you pull books from your shelves, piles, and/or boxes:
a. Keep only the books you love, need, or want to save for future children/grandchildren. Set save-for-laters and non-keepers aside, we’ll deal with these later.
b. Check them over for mold and bugs that may contaminate other books, and set those aside.
c. Pull any loose papers from the books, i.e. bookmarks, notes, etc.
d. Give them a good dusting before sitting them in their correct stacks.
4. Wipe down your empty shelves with some all-purpose spray or furniture polish.
5. When you have your books in stacks, taking shelf space and frequency of use into consideration, decide where each stack of books will be best placed in your home. Keep them where you’ll use them:
a. Baskets, milk crates, file cabinets, or even rain gutters can be creative alternatives if you are short on bookcases.
b. Place children’s books at child friendly height in room where children spend most of their time.
c. Reference books are best placed closest to where your children do their school work, probably near the computer
d. Recipe books go in the kitchen
6. If you want to organize and track your library digitally, there are quite a few computer software options:
a. Mac users can check out Delicious Library
b. Windows users can use All My Books
c. Maybe Freeware Book Management Software is what you are looking for
d. LibraryThing can be used to organize your books online
7. Now you are ready to put all the books you love and need back on your clean, empty shelves.
a. Just organize one bookcase at a time, sorting them as you go.
b. Keep spines as vertical as possible; use book ends to keep them straight as necessary.
c. Keep larger books on lower shelves. They can be stacked, ideally no more than three books high to prevent damage, but…
…sometimes you just do what ya gotta do… 🙂
8. Now, what about those “save-for-later” books? Box them up and put them in a dry, dark, safe place.
9. And what about those unwanted books? Here are a few options:
a. Join Paperback Swap for free! You can trade books with other members, only paying for the cost to ship your book out. This is a great way to trade out books you don’t want for those you do. And you can make offers for deals on their Homeschool Forum to quickly get rid of many books. But beware; shopping other members’ deals can be addictive and counterproductive! Don’t ask me how I know!
b. If you think you have books of value, see if they would be worth selling on E-bay. Or, you could check out Book Scouter to see if anyone is willing to buy them.
c. Call your local used bookstores and find out if they buy books.
d. Donate your unwanted books to thrift shops, church libraries, daycare centers, and/or retirement homes.
10.What about those unfortunate books that have mold or are bug eaten?
a. Mold can be killed and the smell removed from most books using these Mildew Removal Tips .
c. Keep books quarantined until you are certain that the problem is fixed.
11. The trick now is to keep your shelves organized.
a. Teach children your sorting method, and show them how to properly respect books
b. Putting labels on the shelf edges can help young children find proper homes for books.
c. Some parents like to color code books by putting a sticker on the spine that matches the sticker where the book belongs. I personally don’t like stickers on my books, but whatever works for you!
d. Some parents like to have a “library basket,” a holding place for books that need to be returned to shelves, so that they can return them to their proper places themselves.
e. This is your system! Feel free to modify it until you find something that is workable for you!
Now, that wasn’t too bad, was it? See, bibliomania is curable! And if all else fails, you can always send those books my way! I’m sure I’ll find a place for them somewhere! 🙂