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How to organize books in a home library

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Organize books in a home library so they're easy to find

Organize books in a home library so they’re easy to find

Arranging your books in a logical way makes it easy to find one when you?re looking for it. Whether a friend asks to borrow a certain novel, your daughter needs to reference a history book or you simply want to re-read an old favorite, it?s nice to be able to find what you need when it?s needed.

Methods used to organize books in a home library range from alphabetizing by author, separating shelves into genres, themes or subjects, by your own favorites and even by spine color for a more aesthetic approach. This is your personal book collection, so choose a method that makes the most sense for your habits.

Getting starting

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The first thing to do is sort the full collection. Brace yourself. If you own more books than you have shelf space for, some should probably be donated to the library. Deciding what you absolutely must keep and what goes is probably going to be the toughest part of this project. On the bright side, most can be donated so others will read them.

Here?s what should definitely go in the KEEP pile: favorites, valuable collector?s editions, those written by an author you love, anything you haven?t read yet, rare editions and works that enhance your collection.


Books ripe for the donation or trash pile include any that are moldy or damaged beyond repair, ones you didn?t enjoy, out-of-date reference volumes and novels you have no intention of passing to a friend or re-reading.

To catalog or not to catalog

Cataloging is not essential when you organize books in a home library, but it?s useful. Make the catalog from a basic Excel sheet or log them into The purpose is to create a list of all your books so you can track their location (important if you?re organizing by color) and note which ones are on loan and to whom.

Where will they live?

Sorting and cataloging gives you an idea of the scope of your collection. For many readers who lack a giant room to house everything, the home library will actually be spread throughout the house – a shelf in the living room, maybe one in the hall. Make sure your most valuable books are out of direct sunlight. 

Moisture, dust mites and steam from radiators are no friends to books. Position your shelves away from pipes and air conditioners, and keep to-read stacks off the floor. If your home is filled with natural light, you may want to get a book shelf with doors for extra protection.

Time to shelve

This is a tedious step, but you?re almost done! The most important thing about organization is consistency. Choose one system and stick with it. If you?re organizing by theme, subject or genre, take your time and make sure each is placed in the obvious section. Note the section in the catalog if you created one. 

Shelve one section at a time. You may want to alphabetize within sections, arrange them by size or in a way that highlights your favorites. Perhaps you want to begin each section with the books you haven?t read yet so they?re front and center.

As you organize books in a home library, consider playing with how they look on the shelf. It doesn?t have to look like every other book shelf. Break them up visually by laying a few vertically and treat yourself to a lovely pair of bookends.

The final step is critical. Once you?re done shelving … grab a book and relax. Enjoy the sight of your newly arranged, beautiful collection. Of course, make notes in the catalog of books you?d love to add.


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