Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Organizing our Home Library by Author and Dewey Decimal Number, or, I Have Finally and Inevitably Lost the Plot

In our current house we have [had] books in just about every room of the house. Large-format non-fiction reference lived in the basement playroom. Adult fiction and some non-fiction lived in the living room, as did certain ready-reference books and popular magazines. Children's books mostly lived in their bedroom. Homeschooling and crafts books lived in the studio. My esoteric fiction and non-fiction (Welsh-English dictionary, anyone?) lived in my bedroom.

This was inconvenient on many levels. I periodically had to sort through the adult fiction shelves to find books that Will would be interested in, as her reading ability and maturity grew. If we were researching a particular topic--frogs, say--we might have to scan books in the living room, in the children's bedroom, the studio, and in the basement playroom, and we still might miss a couple of relevant resources. If I was looking for a book that I wanted to re-read, I didn't know if I would find it in the living room or in the children's room or in my bedroom.

One of my many organizational goals for our new house is to shelve the entire family's books in one central location, probably the big family room with the very high ceilings. I'd like to make a bookshelf similar to this pipe bookshelf shelving unit, also using some marble slabs that Matt bought from our IU Surplus Store back when we were planning to actually put countertops in our kitchen (we never did; they're still plywood). Will agreed to the plan, as long as none of the bookshelves are out of her reach (I may offer a compromise with a stepladder, but we'll see). The plan will only really work, however, if the books are more or less organized; having to scan every book on four dozen shelves is barely less work than having to scan every book in four different rooms.

So while I'm relatively fresh in the face of packing, my first order of business was to organize every book in our house by fiction and non-fiction, to further organize the fiction using alpha by author, to further organize the non-fiction using broad Dewey Decimal categories, and to pack them up in boxes with labels on so that they stay organized.

In case you DON'T think that sounds crazy, check out what doing it actually looks like:

Um... yeah, those are a billion mile-high stacks of books, each with an index card on top labeling it with its author letter or Dewey Decimal category. I spent an entire Saturday doing it, and as if that's not crazy enough, whenever Matt and the kids weren't in the room to witness this further deterioration of my sanity, I arranged each stack with its spines nicely facing out and then photographed it:

This is the S stack. We've got Bram Stoker, William Shakespeare, Lemony Snicket, Edmund Spenser, Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Robert Louis Stevenson, Richard Scary, and more. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is in there, as well as Black Beauty and Heidi, and The Sagas of Icelanders, indexed by title since it doesn't have an author.

The P stack is a little light, but we've still got Philip Pullman and Thomas Pynchon. Another way in which this system will be useful is that if I like an author or a series, I like to collect all the available titles, but since I mainly shop used, it's a gradual process. If all the books in the house are catalogued together, it will be easier for me to see, for instance, that I only have the first book in the His Dark Materials series--for shame!

Other than Island of the Blue Dolphins and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the O stack is dominated by Mary Pope Osborne. I'd stopped consciously collecting the Magic Tree House books after Will grew out of them a bit (she still reads the new ones, but doesn't often re-read the old ones), but I'm back at it again now that Syd is a reader.

There's more variety in the M stack. We've got Daisy Meadows, George R.R. Martin, about three copies of The Secret Garden, Stephanie Meyer, Robert McCloskey, Robin McKinley, Herman Melville, Margaret Mitchell, all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, W. Somerset Maugham, Peyton Place, and L.M. Montgomery.

In the L stack, there's Ira Levin (The Stepford Wives is soooo creepy!), Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, Jack London, Lois Lowry, Gail Carson Levine, and Astrid Lindgren. 

After that, I stopped taking photos because Matt came in, and we've already had many discussions about who is acting crazier because of the move (I say him; he incorrectly says me), so I didn't want to give him any more ammunition.

Matt helped me pack up all the books into boxes--one great thing about volunteering weekly at a food pantry is that I'm able to collect so many boxes!--and label them with Sharpies, and he shoved them into the children's room so that I won't have to look at them.

Five minutes after we'd finished, I found a whole entire shelf of books that I'd forgotten to pack, and then Matt found another stack of books up high on a back shelf out of sight, and then I remembered that I'd packed the book we need for this week's Magic Tree House Club meeting. I threw the leftover books in the giant box in which I was packing blankets, so I'll deal with them later, and while the kids are at tennis class, I'll see if there's a library digital copy of Thanksgiving on Thursday to put on Will's Nook.

If only packing clothes and dishes and linens and craft supplies were as interesting as packing books!


Tina said...

Ohh, I love your books! As I have a ready problem (I have forgotten to feed the child a time or two while engrossed in a good book), I tend to only read non-fiction now so our adult fiction section is pretty non-existent as the hubby doesn't read much either. However, our non-fiction section is coming along nicely. That being said, about 90% of the books we own are Emma's.

One more year of school, then Emma will be 9 1/2 (and able to feed herself) so I will be back to reading for pleasure. One of my all time favorite series is by Christine Feehan (the Dark series- about Carpatians- vampires). There have been a lot of new books out in the last few years and I can't wait to start the entire series over again. I also love the J.D. Robb books.

I miss reading for fun.

Oh, and I am a nut-case when it comes time to pack. This next move will be the first time I plan to let the military pack everything. Maybe.

Tina said...

*that should say reading*

I also have a spelling problem...

julie said...

I don't think that having lovely and thoughtfully designed bookshelves is going to encourage me to curb my major book collecting habit.

Also, an embarrassing number of books in the K section are written by Sherilyn Kenyon, a writer in the same genre as Feehan. Got to love those uber-romantic were-beasts!

Tina said...

I keep telling myself (and Emma) that we are not going to buy any more books until more of the current books are read. Then we hit up a thrift store and find THE book we've been looking for even though we didn't know we were looking for it.

I suppose there are worse addictions to have!


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