Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Arrangements

Matilda asked:

I would love to hear you thoughts on organizing books. Do you arrange them on the shelf by size, subject, author, etc?
Thank you for asking!

I arrange them by subject. .... mostly. I do take size into consideration and I try to keep them grouped by author or sometimes publisher within the subject category. Does that make sense? For example, I keep my Narnia books together except when my kids are reading them, which is most of the time, but I have CS Lewis' non-fiction in a different section.

Let's see, I really ought to take pictures because it would make it so much clearer, but this is the wrong time of year. This summer I had them all organized, but because we bought three new shelves and took one down, some things don't fit the way they did and well, you get the picture, or lack of it. Maybe I will try to tackle them soon so I can post some photos to go along with this. Not that I have the best system in the world, but just because it's easier to picture something when there are visuals to help.

We have 16 bookshelves of varying sizes and this does not count my curriculum closet or my husband's bookshelves in his office, or the bookshelves in my teenagers' rooms.
Downstairs I have 6 bookshelves:

Two smallish ones are for the schoolbooks we are using this year, and my teacher's manuals and other resources.

Two with glass doors are for the good books -- a complete set of Dickens, a similar set of Shakespeare, one of Jane Austen, some collectibles and old family books, that kind of thing.

Two big ones in the hall are basically for miscellaneous books. This is where you find most of the general-interest coffee-table books, and books my husband or I acquired during the years that reflect our past interests or something we would like to get to. For example, a book about Canada that my Canadian cousins sent us as a wedding present; some old diaries and journals and geneologies from both sides of the family; some of my college textbooks.

My daughter also has the books she wants to read for school this year on these shelves. Some of the books here are in double rows.
Upstairs are the bulk of the homeschooling and childrens' books in ten bookshelves:

Four bookcases hold most of the fictional books.

I have them loosely arranged --

  1. series books -- Hardy Boys, Narnia, some Christian fantasy and science fiction
  2. "living history" books -- Bethlehem books and so on
  3. general fiction-
  4. and books suitable for teenagers ... like our Heinleins, and Sir Walter Scotts, and CS Lewis "Space Trilogy".

There are further sub-divisions like short chapter books for younger readers on one shelf (Thornton Burgess, Magic Treehouse series, that kind of thing), American historical fiction on another, and so on.

One glass-door bookcase holds old classic fiction in hardcovers that are a bit fragile -- some old Henty books, some LM Montgomery books I had as a child, etc.

Three more bookcases are devoted respectively to:

  • Our Catholic Faith (saints' bios, Catholic Mosaic picture books, devotionals, etc)
  • History and Art
  • Science, Nature Study and Geography.

There is one more glass-door bookshelf opposite my husband's office where I keep old anthology sets (like My Book Shelf and Book of Knowledge, the nice old Catholic readers, the Norton anthologies), and also our small collection of ancient history and literature primary resources.... like Sophocles, Aeschylus, Socrates and Aristotle.

Finally,there is a bookshelf with picture books by my bedside. I have several boxes of picture books in addition to the ones on the shelves, and I rotate them occasionally. Otherwise it is too difficult for the little ones to weed through them all and find the ones they want to read.

I also keep Christmas and Advent books put away in a box, and another box holds books I bought at the library sale but haven't gotten around to previewing yet. I don't put the books on the regular shelves until I know they are OK for the age levels they are recommended for.

My curriculum closet holds the book boxes and also some shelves for curriculum not currently in use. There are three bookshelves in there. I also keep my parenting and homeschooling-how-to type books in there, and some spiritual books that are more targeted for me than for the kids (though the teenagers browse in there occasionally).

The overall goal of this system is to make it easy to replace things on the shelves, keep the sizes of the books on one shelf fairly uniform, and of course, so that I can find things when I need to.

It took quite a lot of time to organize it last summer since I hadn't done anything with my system for several years before that, but this year it probably won't take so long.

If I had to start from scratch again I think I would do it the way I did it this time:

  • Children's fiction
  • Teen fiction
  • Picture books

Non-fiction books divided into categories (I used religion/art/music/history/geography/science)

(By the way, I forgot to mention that I put the little thin non-fiction books into boxes and strew them or bring them out when we cover that topic -- I used to keep them on bookshelves but it is hard to keep them nice when they are shelved together like that).

Good editions and anthologies separate from the trade paperbacks in cabinets that the children know to approach more respectfully.

Books that don't fit into the "suitable for and of interest to children" category are separate from the books that are intended for the childrens' enjoyment. Though of course, the teenagers generally cross categories -- I don't think we have ANY books around that I would be horrified at seeing my older teenagers read.

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