How To Organize a Personal Home Library

Author's Note

*** This is a reprint of one of my articles that appeared in The London Free Press, October 23, 1993. ***

Books Can Pile Up Everywhere

Simple to Develop, Helps Organize Your Growing Collection of Books

What comes in all colours and sizes, and can be found on tabletops, floors, nightstands, refrigerators, desks, in bathrooms and cars? Give up? The answer is BOOKS.

There is printed matter for every interest imaginable, and if you have a family of avid readers with a voracious appetite for books, it takes some imagination to keep them from cluttering up the entire house.

A home library is simple to develop, and provides a means of organizing your growing book and magazine collection. It need not take a lot of work or money to get started.

First of all, you need a place to put your books. You can spend a little or a lot, as your situation dictates.

If you are building a home or renovating, it would be a good idea to incorporate any built-in shelving into your blueprints. You can have your library complete in one room, or have mini-libraries in various areas around the house. Be sure to include adequate lighting. It is difficult to read the spines if the room is dim.

Incorporate Built-in Shelving Into Your Blueprints

Have libraries located in one location or throughout the house
Have libraries located in one location or throughout the house

Organize Your Home Library and Your Child's

Home Libraries Can Be Portable

If you want to be able to move things around, you can buy inexpensive portable shelving that can be added to. Start with a one, three or five shelf unit, buy another stand beside it, and so on. Of course, if you have the means, you can invest in a custom hand-made unit to stand independently or to be installed as a permanent fixture.

If you have an old wardrobe or two that you don't know what to do with, they make handsome book cupboards that also allow you to keep the room looking neat and tidy.

For collectors of fine works or other treasures, a library is a wonderful way to show off your vast assortment of impressive tomes. Naturally, you'll want to make sure that you procure only hard cover or leather bound editions in order to amaze people. Six of these look more like a collection tha a dozen soft covers.

Adults are not the only people who enjoy owning books. A home library is of benefit to children, too. Kids are more likely to pick a book to read, or properly research a project, if the material is easy to retrieve. If they have to hunt for it, they probably won't bother.

Where to Start

There are many different ways to organize your compilation of reading matter. Alphabetically by title or author; novels on one shelf with non-fiction on another; by subject or category; all your how-to's together; hard coers in one spot with covers somewhere else. If you can keep the kid's books in their rooms, they can pick out something to read before bed, which is a great habit to instill.

Safe Haven

Aside from be to find the publication that you want or need in a reasonable amount of time, a library is also a safe haven for books. They stay clean and intact when kept on shelves, prolonging their life and your investment. A good way to sort the author and subject, with the children's reference books in a separate spot, or on lower shelves that are within easy reach of your youngsters. Each family member may want a unit in his or he to hold their special books no one else would want to read.

Will you sometimes get too many books? You bet. Then you sort through and pull out the 'duds' or the ones that you do not concider 'keepers', and take them to your local public library for donation. If you have enough volumes, you could always have a garage sale. That way you can keep your library under control.

More by this Author


Library of Comments 41 comments

Hope Wilbanks profile image

Hope Wilbanks 8 years ago from Louisiana

Great tips!


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

We just moved my library is in boxes so they will need organizing.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Mine are in boxes too because I'm only staying where I am temporarily. I really miss seeing them all on display on shelves though, can't wait until I settle somewhere permanently so I can pull them all out again.

Good luck with your organizing, Bob.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thx, Hope!


jim1307 8 years ago

I find that buying these items tends to be costly. With a little bit of know-how these items are easily built from scratch. This is the way I do things now, whenever possible. Buidling your own, also means you can use your creative abilities and custom build something special :))


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

I agree, Jim. I've never built a shelf from scratch, but I would think it would bring a great deal of satisfaction, not to mention the benefits of customizing it to your existing space.

Thx for reading and for commenting.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

I work in a library and own several hundred book, so I love the ideas you provide in your hub. Unfortunately most of my books are in storage right now because I do not have enough bookshelfs right now. However, I plan on buying these and following these suggestions. Thanks for the good hub.


mulder profile image

mulder 8 years ago from Warnbro Western Australia

great hub .


Helen 8 years ago

Shirley, I like your advice about the "duds." Mostly, I can't throw anything away, especially related to creativity or reading. Because I review books, I have a vast number of them; perhaps 50% of which could be either given away because they are of no interest to me, or because they are true "duds." After reading your article here, I am empowered to surgically excise these space-robbers and dust-gatherers from my overflowing library. Thanx... -Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Great ideas, I have just gone through all mine and heaps are out on back table to go in my weekend garage sale. I kept buying them and selling most of them on ebay. But it doesnt pay so well now with costs of postage etc.

So out they go Thanks for sharing this.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

We sorted all the books we were not reading anymore, asked the parents in our school who wanted to share their books and donated them to the local library and a sister's congregation who teaches street children catechism. So they could have a mini-library :) Great idea on how to make a home library.


Dottie1 profile image

Dottie1 8 years ago from MA, USA

I donated lots of my books to the "Hikin Hornets" yardsale. The yardsale was one of the many fundraisers to help defray the cost of the 8th grade summer hiking trip out west.

I loved the picture of the built-in-shelving around the fireplace. I could sit and read there for hours.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

~~ SweetiePie ~~

I have hundreds of books also, and they are in boxes right now, too. I miss them though!! I hope there's something here that can help you bring yours out again to enjoy. Thx for reading and commenting.

~~ Mulder ~~

Thank-you so much!

~~ Helen ~~

You're like me....I absolutely cannot throw out a book. Or dog ear it, or break the spine, or get it dirty, or any other literarily anal thing. A small town library, school library, doesn't matter where they're donated in my opinion as long as someone is able to use and enjoy them. Parting with a book is hard enough, but at least if it's going to a good home, I can (almost) live with it. I'm glad this hub helped you to release your inner librarian/book monitor.

Thx, Helen.

~~ Eileen ~~

Too bad about eBay! Hope the garage sale nets you a tidy profit without the worries about shipping. Thx for coming by!

~~ Ripplemaker ~~

What a great thing to do! Can't think of a better use for books than education and enjoyment for children. Thx for sharing that!

~~ Dottie ~~

I think a fundraiser is a terrific idea! 3 benefits there - you get more space, the team gets a bit of money, and the end user gets a wonderful book to read. It's a win/win/win.

Can't you just picture yourself sitting in one of those chairs in front of the fireplace? Your legs curled up around you, an afghan over your lap, a glass of wine.....the fire sizzles and crackles as you escape into your favourite Beatles biography. Ahhh.


Dottie1 profile image

Dottie1 8 years ago from MA, USA

You always make me laugh, Shirley.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thx, Dottie. At first I had typed beside your name, 'what are you doing out of The Beatles hub?'....then thought better of it.

But there, I've said it now!


msms profile image

msms 8 years ago

Shirley Anderson, your Hub forces the reaer to think towards the neglected but useful area of organising their surroundings for efficient use. Though, Home library is an entirley individual area of decision, but yes Shirley, one must look at it. How reader organiseshis books is his choice and his comfort with his arrangements.

As always, you provoke


Woody Marx profile image

Woody Marx 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

One look at my flat with all it's corners and every spare (and not so spare) space being occupied by a book and you would despair of ever organizing this melay of printed matter! But it's always nice to dream. ;)


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

MSMS - yes, I agree with you about book placement being a personal thing, especially to those of us who love and revere them. That's what's nice about a customized option - you can arrange them in a way that feels good for you. Thank-you, MSMS. Hey, last time I checked you still hadn't a pic of your bead necklaces. Will we be lucky enough to see one someday?

Woody, you know what Walt Disney said - "If you can dream it, you can do it." Don't give up! Thx for commenting, Woody.


msms profile image

msms 8 years ago

Ha Ha Ha ... Thanks Shirley ... I love your comments where ever they are ...


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Msms, I always enjoy it when you drop in and leave note!


SirDent 8 years ago

This is a very well written hub, Shirley. If I decide to put together a home library I know where to find the information I need.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thx, SirDent!


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

I gave away all my books i had and i would have liked to hve kept them, but in the same light, im glad i have given other people the joy of reading them!!

I have only one book which i was recently given, titled Aromatherapy, and im always asked if i have found the book useful and my answer is yes..but i never mentioned it makes a great mouse mat in bed!!!lol


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

C.S, you're hilarious! Too bad about the 'no books' situation, but good that you have a mousepad. :)


prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 8 years ago from Tumkur

This one thing i have never been able to manage. i have atleast 2000 books in my personal library and though I have kept it somewhat classified, I still have to ask others for the needed book eventhough I have that, for the simple reason that I can not trace it out.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Prasajain - impressive collection! I've always dreamed of having a library in my house, you know - one of those rooms that has bookshelves to the ceiling and over the doors....you need one of those ladders to get at the top volumes. <sigh> That would be one version of Heaven for me. Someday.....

Sounds like you could use one now! I'm glad there are others that can help you find the volumes you need.

Estella - ah, your books will be missing you! It will be nice when you can take them out and put them on display, all nice and handy for you to grab one anytime you want.

Thx for coming by, and for the encouragement.


gwyn estember 8 years ago

great hub. my mom is a teacher and loves collecting books. maybe i should suggest this to her for her collection has grown in number already.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Wow, I imagine a teacher has an absolute TON of books. It would probably make it easier to find just the one she wants if she could get them organized somehow onto shelves.

Thx for stopping by Gwyn, and the compliment!


cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 8 years ago from North Carolina

Great one, I need this, my books are all lying in boxes, shelves in a random manner, I have to organize it. Thanks for sharing this article Shirley.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

You're very welcome, Cgull! Thank-you for reading and commenting.


Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

My big issue in NZ and Australia is fading: never place a bookcase opposite a large window around here! I have found dark placws in corridors and under stairs work best because of this issue: can easily make a spin unreadable in a year or so


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Lissie, that's an excellent point that I hadn't thought of! Thanks for mentioning it, and coming by to read.


tinacarla profile image

tinacarla 7 years ago from USA

great tips! now I know what to do with all my books !


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi Tinacarla, thanks! Hope it was helpful to you.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

Lot of good tips excellent hub.I love the pictures


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Yeah, I'd like to have that fireplace. Thanks for your comment, Lgali.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Great ideas. I'm trying to cut down on the growing library because we don't have room for it all. The library is becoming my best friend though to own the book does make a difference when you hold it and savor it :)


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Oh RGraf, you are soooo right!! It is wonderful to savour books! I just love owning books, they are my prized posessions.

Good luck with your growing book collection! It sucks that you have to get rid of some.


Anamika S profile image

Anamika S 6 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

You have some great Tips here. I am someone who keeps on accumulating books wherever I go and many i don't even read. But the good thing is i am very organized and everything including my books are kept tidy and i will always know where to find them if i need them.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Wow, Anamika! Your comment was so good that I got it 4 times. :)

I'm a book collector, myself. I just love having them around me. I do read them but I many that I haven't gotten to, yet. A home library is a good way to organize them, for sure.

Thanks for your comment(s). :)


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

I'm 68 years old, a life-time reader (one to two books per day) and bought (at this stage) more than 1,000 books. I have bookcases in every room in my house. All are full, and books are double-shelved in some. I try to separate types of books, and some are alphabetized within the categories, but the task long ago became overwhelming. I doubt they will ever be fully organized within my lifetime. : )

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