When you started using the public library, you probably learned about Melvil Dewey and his system for ordering libraries. The Dewey Decimal Classification System has ten broad categories for organizing books, including philosophy, religion and the arts. Each category is assigned a number, so for example, when you want a book on modern art, you head to the 700 block. Larger libraries, such as those at universities, tend to use the Library of Congress Classification System because it offers a more specific array of subjects for categorization, adding subjects such as medicine and law for a total of 21 categories.
Your home library may or may not be as large as your local public library, but a good system of organization will still help you find the book you want quickly. You could take a page from Dewey and the Library of Congress and sort books by subject matter. Sections for subjects such as history, technology or fiction might make their retrieval easier. This system also would allow you to highlight a particular passion, such as an extensive collection of World War II history.
Here are some other ways to organize a collection.
- Alphabetizing by author works well for fiction but not necessarily for nonfiction books of various subjects.
- Judging a book by its cover is usually frowned upon, but sorting by color can be aesthetically pleasing to some. Those generally forgetful about the colors of their books might disagree.
- After a painful breakup, the main character in Nick Hornby's book "High Fidelity" organizes his record collection autobiographically in the order he acquired them. A chronological organization might include shelves that track the progress of your life, from beloved childhood reading and college textbooks to parenting books.
- To some readers, there are two ways to look at books: read and unread. Prioritizing when you might need the book will allow you to keep unread books at the forefront of your collection, as well as books you reach for frequently, such as reference books or favorite novels.
Once you've organized your collection, you're going to need a place to put it. On the next page, we'll take a look at bookshelves and other library furniture.