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Tips for Arranging a Personal Library

Updated on June 15, 2015

Too many books

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Being a book lover

Are you a book fanatic or book lover?

Can you not walk past a bookshop without buying one or even two book? If you are then you probably have a large collection of books at home.

It can be daunting to work out how to arrange ones own book. After all libraries employ librarians to arrange, organize and sort books into appropriate categories so they are reasonably easy to find.

Most people tend to simply put books into book shelves in no particular order, happy to have them off the floor and somewhere on display.

But there comes a time where we all want to do more for our books.

How do you start?

The first port of call will be to work out which books you are going to keep and which ones you are going to cull. Let’s face it, we all cull books from time to time. More often than not people use moving as an opportunity to rid themselves of unwanted items. Books are no different. Everyone will have some books they no longer want (there are of course always exceptions to this rule).

Culling books can be a difficult exercise. If you thinks this is so, perhaps you should start with piles. First make a pile of books you are definitely not going to part with. These are usually rare books, old books, favorite books and coffee table books. Lets face it, you can never have too many coffee table books.

Next make a pile of books you know you are not going to miss. These may consist of paperbacks you bought for a quick read, or someone gave you, or you picked them up on your travels. They will be books you are unlikely to want to read again.

This may not be the end of your piles. You may need to have an uncertain pile. You put those books in it that you are not sure of. You can always make a decision on those later.

Once you have your piles you can move on to the important thing of actually establishing your library.

Sorting books into piles

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How to display your books

Before working out in what order to display your books you may want to give some thought to the type of shelving (assuming you are going to have to address this issue as well). It may be that your current shelving is not big enough to house all the books you have acquired, or you may simply want to update your shelving.

More precious books might be better of behind a glass door cabinet, whereas books you want to have easy access to will fit into any shelve.

There are many unique designs available these days catering for the unusual, the space saver and the unique.

Here is also another use for your unwanted books. If you find books of similar size you can create your own shelve by using the books as posts. It is a win, win situation, with you reusing your own books and not having to get rid of them after all.

Most creative book shelve design

Where to put the shelves

Depending on the size of your house or flat you may not have the luxury of working out where you are going to put up your special space to house your prized possessions. The decision may be forced on you by your living space. With so many choices of shelving though, most space problems are catered for.

Not many of us live in a place large enough to have a room set aside as our library. If you do, good for you.

Generally people choose a spare bedroom, the master bedroom or the living room as the place to put up shelving.

Of course you may not want all the books in one room and may be able to use more than one room. You could keep fiction in your living room and non fiction in the spare bedroom.

Whatever room you choose, it should be easily accessible so you can get to your books when you want to.

How to arrange the books

Here comes another difficult task (I was going to say the most difficult, but being a book lover myself the more difficult task might have been weeding out the books), which is how do you arrange your books.

Every time we have moved I have vowed to arrange my own library in our new house, and every time I have failed to do this.

For some reason when I arrange our books, of which there are many, I am obsessed with arranging them into height order. Thus, I have to start with the tallest book and arrange them in a shelve from tallest to shortest. Not a very logical way I agree and no doubt it must say something about me.

Anyway, there are other ways to arrange your books in your shelves.

You may want to arrange your books simply into fiction and non fiction. From there you may not want to do any more organizing, but of course you can.

Once you have fiction and non fiction sorted you may want to go to arranging your fiction books in alphabetical order. Or, you may want to arrange them in genre and then go into alphabetical oder.


So, you may want to have a crime area, a children area, a general fiction, romance and so on. From there you can then arrange your authors alphabetically, or you may want to arrange them from most favorite to least favorite.

Non fiction books could be arranged in topics or style of book. You could arrange hard cover picture books in one area and biographies in another. The different types of arrangement are probably only limited by your imagination.

Of course coffee table type books will always need to be displayed on a coffee table. If you have too many for one table you may have to set up a rotation system.

Lastly you may want to think about cataloging your collection. This may depend on how dedicated you are and how much time you have (and maybe how big your collection is). Keeping a written record of your books may be a good thing if you lend your books to friends and acquaintances, something I rarely do these days, having had several books never returned to me.

Now that you have arranged your books in the way you like all that is left to do is find the time to sit, read and enjoy them

Hopefully you have room left in your book shelves for the books you are going to purchase in the future.

Displaying special books in special places

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    • Julie K Henderson profile image

      Julie K Henderson 

      3 years ago

      This is a thoughtful, helpful hub. For years I've tried to determine the best way to display my book collection, and yet I still don't think I've stumbled upon the ideal solution. Thank you for providing me with a few ideas. Finally, I agree with you: deciding which books to weed out can be difficult.

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