We like books. I mean, we really like books. I like them so much, sometimes I just sit and look at the shelves full of them. It makes me happy. Every one of our books represents a wealth of knowledge. Through them, I learn things I didn’t know, I travel to places I have never been, and I experience slivers of life I never could have experienced otherwise. I can even do a little time travel. Books represent possibilities. And I like possibilities.
Anyone who likes books as much as we do is bound to have a lot of them. We have books in our bedrooms and books in our study nooks. There are books in our offices and books in our kitchen. And there are a lot of books in our living room. That is where we put most of the books we use for our home school.
It is this area that used to give us difficulty. My kids inherited my love of books, so we were all constantly pulling books from the shelves and stuffing them back in where ever they would fit. We tried several methods to organize them but invariably, we would end up scouring the shelves for a particular book without being able to put our hands on it. Frustrating.
Then, two years ago we hit upon our current library system. It works so well, that two years later it is still just as organized as when we first implemented it. It is also easy to add new books to the shelves (because we have the habit of carting home more and more books…)
In coming up with a system, I knew it had to have a few things going for it.
* It had to be easy to find a particular book
* It had to be easy for kids to put the book back where it belonged
* It had to be easy to remember
* It had to be easy to implement and easy to expand
This system met all four points and exceeded my expectations. So without further ado, let me present our Home Library System:
What You Will Need:
Dot stickers in various colors (You know, those cheap stickers in the office supply section. The ones you sometimes see used at garage sales, etc. The ones I bought came in 2 sizes. I ended up using both, as you will see. The number of colors or color combinations you will need depends on the number of categories you use.)
Pen and Paper
Poster Putty or Packing Tape
How to Set Up the System:
Before you begin, you need to decide how to categorize your books. The Dewey Decimal System is great if you want to be meticulous about it, but I wanted a system that my kids would actually use. I didn’t want them to have to spend more time re-filing the book than it took to get it out. We want to encourage reading, not make it a chore. So I kept our categories simple. For our family, it made the most sense to categorize by subject, rather than by author. When searching for a book about sharks, my kids rarely say, “Gee, mom, where is that book by Susan Barraclough?” They just say, “Gee, mom, where is that book about sharks?” And when I want to study a historical period with my kids, I don’t want to have to search all the shelves for books from or about the 1800’s. I just want to see everything we have about that time period at a glance.
Because of the way we use our books, our system is set up by subjects such as Bible, Literature, History, Science, Life Skills, Logic, Early Learning, Health, Mathematics, etc.
In really big subject areas like Science and History, we broke it down into sub-categories. For History, we have sub-categories like Ancient History, Medieval History, Modern History, U.S. History, Geography, etc. In Science, we have sub-categories like Biology, Botany, Paleontology, Ornithology, Marine Biology, Meteorology, Anatomy, Astronomy, etc. By breaking up the bigger categories into smaller sub-categories, we are always able to quickly find what we are looking for. That shark book? It’s in the Marine Biology section.
Once you have decided how you want to categorize your books, it’s time to begin.
*Get out that pen and paper. Brain storm a little and write down the categories you think you will use. This may change a bit as you sort your books, but write it down anyway.
*Now for the fun part. Probably the most difficult part is the sorting. Drag in all the books that are scattered abroad and start making stacks for each of your categories. Pull any books from the shelves and put them into the stacks. You probably have more books than you realize. We had so many stacks of books you couldn’t walk through the room.
*Make a snack. You are working hard.
*Make any changes to your categories now that you see what you actually have. You may need to break things into sub-categories. Write down any changes you make. Once you are satisfied with your stacks and category titles, move on to the next step.
*If your category list looks like mine did, you will probably need to re-write it. Leave some space between each category. Now you are going to assign your color code.
*Grab you stickers and start assigning colors. I used orange for History, Dark Blue for Science, Green for Language Arts, etc. It doesn’t matter what color you choose, so long as you put a sticker beside the category on your list. That way you will remember what you chose.
If you run out of different large color dots, you can use the small color dots on top of the large ones to make a color combination. I did this for a number of my categories. Home School Helps is red with a yellow dot in the center. Fine Arts is dark blue with an orange dot.
*Your large categories with sub-categories need a little special attention. It made the most sense to me to keep all my History categories orange, but assign a 3 letter code to each sub-category. So Ancient History is an orange dot with “ANC” written in sharpie. Medieval History is an orange dot with “MED”, etc. Language Arts are Green dots with “LIT” for literature, “POE” for poetry, etc. All my Science sub-categories are Dark Blue, but they each have a different 3 letter code.
*Now it’s time to label all those books. You might want to watch a documentary or something while you do this. Grab one of your category book stacks and your stickers and start sticking. I put mine on the bottom spine, about an inch from the bottom. My stickers didn’t stick very well, so I used a piece of clear tape to tape them down. The tape should wrap around the spine of the book and about an inch onto the front and back covers…. Just trust me on this one. Because I don’t want to talk about having to go back and re-stick all those stickers. For books with spiral spines, I just put the sticker on the front cover, close to the spine and about an inch from the bottom.
*As you work, you can start putting the books back on the shelves.
*Make your shelf labels. I used a computer to type and print my category labels, then I stuck the proper sticker(s) on there and put a 3 letter code if necessary. I laminated them so they would be durable. I attached them to my bookshelves with poster putty, which worked great until my toddler discovered that she could pull them off. Now they are attached with packing tape.
*In the interest of keeping things easy for the kids, I put our early learning books in bins. This way it is easy for our toddler to choose a book and she knows right where they go when she is done:
How to Use the System:
All you and your kids have to do now is go to the category they are interested in, grab a book and curl up on the couch. It takes mere minutes.
When they are done, all they need to do is look at the spine of the book. If it has a green dot, they look at the shelf labels for a green dot. Once they find the green dots on the shelf (it only takes about a second), they look at the book for any letters. If there is a 3 letter code, then they look at the shelf labels for the green dot with the 3 letter code that matches their book. Couldn’t be easier. Once they find it, they just pop the book in with the others. They don’t have to obsess about getting it in any exact place within the category. We save that for the librarians and their Dewey Decimal System. It isn’t likely you have so many books that you need to be that meticulous. All anyone has to do is find the category or sub-category and slide the book in.
This system has worked beautifully for us for two years. There isn’t another organizational project I have ever done that lasted more that 6 months. Kitchens and closets need to be reworked and re-organized. But this system, once it is set up, is so simple that it practically organizes itself.
My husband liked it so well that he used it for his pastoral office shelves. Only his categories are things like Prayer, Pastoral Care, Salvation, etc. And his bookshelves look so neat and tidy because all his books are about the same size:
And now I sit and stare at all those books with the added satisfaction of knowing we can find what we are looking for. Bliss.
Have a great day!
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