Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Home Library Project

...otherwise entitled, When Your OCD Needs Someplace To Land.

Remember my motto?

When you do stuff, stuff gets done.

Yes, it's an amazing cause-and-effect relationship I've discovered.  (eyes roll)
And I've been reminding myself of it for the last week, while our dining room table has been covered with piles of books, rolls of colored tape, more piles of books, sharpies, lists, still more books, and other essential tools as I slogged through all of our... books, books, and more books.

And, whaddaya know...  Ta-Daaaaa!  I got it done!

Pics first, and then I'll explain my system, okay?

And guess what, this is a pretty wordy post.
So if you're not interested in the intricacies and inner workings of my organizational system,
just do yourself a favor and move on to something else.
No hard feelings ;D

Here's what I ended up with:

This bookshelf is in our dining room and holds most of our Bibles and Christian books as well as some oversized travel/photography books.
And look!  There's my great-(great?)-grandma's dresser that Kerry and I refinished last summer.
And by "Kerry and I", I mean that I had the idea and started the project, but he did most of the work.
I keep tablecloths, runners, and cloth napkins right there, handy to the table.

 These two bookcases are side-by-side in the family room.
The shelves on the left, top to bottom, hold family photo albums,
art and poetry books, history (non-fiction),
the boys' camera gear, encyclopedias,
science, more science, and some oversize book, like their Star Wars collection.
On the right, homeschool materials we're not using right now,
historical fiction and biographies,
children's picture books,
miscellaneous reference type books (gardening, finances, etc.),
kids' magazines we've kept (Discover, Ranger Rick, etc.) and oversized kid books.

 Here's a close-up of the history shelves.  I've tried to put the books roughly in chronological order.
Over on the left we start with ancient Egypt and work our way to the right through the Roman Empire, the Vikings, the Middle Ages, etc.  Of course, we're pretty heavy on US history, and especially on wars, battles, and weapons
Hello... I have three boys ;D

Over on the bookshelf to the right are books the boys are more likely to pick up and read from cover-to-cover.  Many are historical fiction, but we also collect biographies and other non-fiction too :D
These are also roughly in chronological order.

 My grandpa made this piece of furniture and we inherited it when we bought the house.
The cabinet below holds our games, and is full to bursting.
These books are mainly adult fiction.  And by adult fiction I'm referring to the reading level more than the content.  There's nothing there I wouldn't want the boys to pick up and read, though many of these don't interest them.
Also, you can see that the boys use the top shelf to keep their MOST prized Lego creations out of smaller hands.

Here we have the kids' books.  I guess I would call this "older kid books".
You know, chapter books.
And on the bottom shelf, Kerry's garage sale finds.

In the cabinet I've stashed all the toddler/board books that I'm still hanging on to,
as well as some of my OLD books.  Some from my childhood, and many much older than that.
I also have our P.J. O'Rourke collection here, though I don't know why they're not out with the other adult books.  (Sometimes I confuse even myself...)

Lastly, the bookshelf in the schoolroom.
I don't keep a lot of books up here.  Our house is 109 years old.
Google up "balloon framing" and you'll see why I'm reluctant to keep to many books upstairs. ;D

Here are some close-ups to show more of my method, which I'll explain below.
Most books have just one color of tape.  Some have two.
This is the only group where some have three, and is due to using a Sonlight history curriculum for the first time, and wanting to be able to identify those books quickly.

Most of our science books are downstairs.  I keep the reference-type books up in the schoolroom.

Same thing with history.  Most are downstairs, but references we use repeatedly stay up.
And our poor, old Kingfisher History of the World...
the yellow tape on the spine is not part of my categorization system.  *sigh*

So that's what it looks like.

Now - since some of you asked - here's how it works.

To my way of thinking, organization is all about categorizing.  But how to categorize...?  I started very simply with fiction and non-fiction, and that served us well for years.  But we now have about 1500 books and I wanted something a bit more refined.  Kerry started teasing me about being completely neurotic filing all our books by the Dewey Decimal System and I gave a nervous little laugh, because I was actually considering it.  Turns out I used it as a starting point, and modified it to suit our collection.

In case you can't whip it out of your memory bank, Dewey has ten major categories:

000   General Information and Reference Works (Encyclopedias, etc.)
100   Philosophy and Psychology
200   Religion
300   Social Sciences, Education, Government
400   Language
500   Science
600   Applied Science, Technology
700   Arts, Architecture
800   Literature
900   History, Geography, Biography

Each of those are broken down into ten sub-categories, and each of those into ten finer divisions.  You can see it all HERE.  (Did you notice what's missing from Dewey?  Fiction.  I'll deal with that later.)  But that's total overkill for a library the size of ours.  Kinda silly to have a category with only one book in it.  Or none.  So I decided to break down our collection into large categories according to the kinds of books we have (your mileage may vary), and that looked like this for us:

1.  Religion and Homeschool (background, methods, motivation, and philosophy of, not nuts and bolts)
2.  Reference Books, Home and Garden, and Trains (don't ask me why trains are here, except that train books are sort of reference books, yah?)
3.  History and Geography (this includes travel books)
4.  Language, Art and Architecture
5.  Math and Logic
6.  Science
7.  Fiction and Humor (which isn't always fiction, but is usually more fiction than fact)

But a lot of the actual books were tricky.  For instance, Tate has a book called Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects.  But how to classify that?  Entomology?  Military History?  Biological Warfare?  Horror?  Ultimately, you get to choose for your own library.  But to streamline the process, I relied heavily on THIS classification website.  Just enter the title and author of a book and it will show you how most libraries file it.  Apparently Wicked Bugs usually gets filed at 632 (Plant Injuries, Diseases, and Pests), or 355 (Military Science), but we put it at 595 for Entomology.

Now that makes it sound like I did go all out for the Dewey Decimal Classification System, but I really didn't.  I bought seven colors of labeling tape (like narrow masking tape) for my seven general categories, and made my own subcategories when I needed them, by putting an initial on the colored tape.  For instance, our Christian books have categories like Parenting, Dating/Marriage, Apologetics, etc.

History was a bit tricky, as we have a lot of historical fiction.  Those I double-labeled, with red for history and blue for fiction, but I shelved them with history.  (That's why in one of the pictures from the schoolroom you see two or three colors on some of the books.  All the books I'm using for this particular Sonlight history have an additional stripe on them so if we mix them in with the rest of our books, I can always 'pull' them easily.  Overkill, I know, but it works for me.)  Also, the way most libraries shelve history books makes me crazy.  It's usually regional, and my mind works chronologically, so that's how mine are organized.

When it came to our science books, I knew I needed help.  We have a LOT of science books.  Hundreds, in fact.  Here's where the Dewey numbers really helped me, though I didn't follow them exactly.  My loose version came out like this:

500   General Science
510   Math and Logic
520   Astronomy
530   Physics
540   Chemistry
550   Earth Science
560   Paleontology/Paleozoology (Fossils and dinosaurs)
570   Life Sciences, Origins, Ecology
580   Botany
590   Zoology
600   Applied Science
610   Anatomy
620   Space Exploration

And as helpful as that was, I still needed to break down the 590s, Zoology, into groups of animals.  And here, I didn't go strictly by Dewey, but modified that according to our collection of books, which is 'weighted' toward animals the boys have been passionate about.  Therefore, we have:

590   General Animal Books (references)
591   Sea Life, (and I lumped in aquatic mammals)
595   Insects and Spiders
597   Reptiles and Amphibians
598   Birds
599   Mammals
I know I'm missing whole categories, but again, it works for us.

That leaves fiction.  I packed away all our toddler/board books, Dr. Seuss and the like.  We're past that, but since we have room - for now anyway - I'm keeping them for guests and grandkids someday.  The rest of our fiction I divided into three groups - little kids (picture books), big kid (chapter books), and adult.  Of course, some of the fiction is shelved with history, but all the rest got shelved by author.  C for Cleary, D for Dahl, you know.  That was the easy part :D

As far as where they are on our shelves... there's no rhyme nor reason to that but shelf space and frequency of use.

So there!  Too much?  I warned ya ;D  I'm just glad it's DONE.


Felicity said...

OK, That's a LOT of work!! It was easy to label our Sonlight books, since they all came in a box, and are easy to divide into the Core group... but to do that to ALL our other books..? My system is based on size (of the book) and then loosely on the type of book... oh, and it's age - newer books look better all together.. ha ha!!

Well done!!

Rebecca D said...

Wow... I am impressed... I love to feel organized, but around here when it comes to books that usually just means on a shelf... Any shelf that contains other books will usually do.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

I know, I know... it's total overkill for most folks ;D But we have a lot of books, and I anticipate the number growing.

And Rebecca... you're BACK! Good to "see" you!

melanie said...

When I did my book tape organizing (10+ years ago?!), I just did them by reading level ~ with plenty of guesstimations and this works at my friend's house ideas.
But now that the history books (incl fiction) rule the home library, I need to reapply tape by time period or something to help ME (ahem- them!) reshelve them faster. And yes, we've added just a few titles since then too.

ANYway, Looks great, my friend! Well done!

P.S. I am thankful for our dry basement to house most of the books ~ I'd read about closet doors not working right, etc. until they moved the bookshelves out of the house... =)

Q said...

JEALOUS! I'd love to do our library but am thinking it should wait until our big break Nov - Dec. I'll have the girls plug in all the isbns into librarything.com, have the site put everything into Library of Congress order, then will move the books into the appropriate locations.

Well, that's how it works in my dreams, at least!

The dB family said...

Well, done my friend! You make me want to run downstairs and start sorting. I have to confess though, mine are sorted quite similarly. I love the idea of the tape, I'm really going to have to look at doing that! Thank you for sharing your OCD tendencies with us ;o)!


leah said...

You need to come to my house. Our books have run amok! I think I really need to invest in more bookshelves (sigh). I have to admit, however, that I would be lucky to get the books all standing in a vertical manner - I doubt I could ever get them organized by Dewey Decimal System!

Also? I love the chandelier in the mirror in the first picture. That is EXACTLY what I've been looking for (for use in our dining room).

alicia hovies said...

You did the right thing by going with the Dewey decimal system and modifying it. You set a good pattern for your family framing how books are in libraries, and how they may do it when they have their own families!