How to organize books
As I mentioned before, I’m reorganizing my space. Lately, that means books. I have tons of them, too many. I’d tried various strategies to organize them but I think I have it figured out now. If you have a lot of books on one topic, this system might help you too.
In a previous effort, I bought white spine labels and see through colored overlay labels from a library supply years ago so I could color code them. I love the library supply. I’ve been buying from Demco but have learned there’s other companies. I really like these plastic magazine cases [see note at close]. They are ten times better than the ones you get at the office supply. I also get the heavier, industrial grade book ends. Anyway, my book situation has gotten out of hand so I’m reworking it. I decided it was time to get real shelves so I got some solid wood, oak veneered ones from Sam’s. Not bad for the price ($166) but you have to put them together. I bought three sets for my office, I hope that’s enough. I need more at home. These are 48″ wide.
I bought two other things I’ve been wanting to tell you about, assuming you’re an addict like me. I bought a book organization program called Readerware ($40) and I cannot tell you how much I love it. If you buy a barcode scanner (the other thing I bought that I love love love to death), you can scan the barcode, upload it to your database and all the fields are populated -after you tell the program to connect to the web to get the book data from locations you specify, like Amazon or the Library of Congress.
At first I just got the program but not the scanner and was manually entering it all in but that was dumb, a real waste of time. Now I’m irritated if a book doesn’t have a barcode to scan. I’ve decided it will be less work for me to create a barcode label from a book’s ISBN and scan that, than to enter all the information manually. So many of the older books don’t have barcodes. More on buying a scanner at close.
How I organize the books
Books are first sorted according to location, color code (label overlay) and then by Dewey Decimal spine label. If you don’t know the DD numbers for it, Readerware usually retrieves that information for you, depending on the data sources you selected the program to search. Mine is set for Amazon (I can download covers too) and the Library of Congress. Note: if you get this, set your location to LOC #2. LOC #1 is clogged and you’ll get lots of errors.
Books are color coded based on the way I use them. For example, all the red labeled books are related to pattern making in some way. These are either pattern drafting, grading, draping or anthropometry books. The yellow books are apparel management or manufacturing related. Blue books are craft, design, sewing or home sewing (quilting, embroidery etc) related. Green is hard science, origami, engineering, math, electrical, building or making things books. Orange is all other non fiction like general management, writing references, cognitive science etc. I don’t have a lot of fiction so those don’t need categorization.
Books are then organized by location. The Readerware program allows me to assign a location to each one. First I assigned a letter designation to each shelf. Then I put all the anthropometry books (red coded) on that shelf and put that in the database. All the pattern books go on another shelf, the oversized ones to another shelf etc. This allows me to correctly sort all the red books differently. The historical pattern books can go on another shelf I use less frequently. The red label foreign books on another shelf. All of my red books won’t be stuck in one area, hogging primary shelf space if I don’t use them often. This way, if I know I have a book but can’t find it because I forgot how I categorized it (a common occurence before), I can look it up in the database to see where it is. I also plan on scanning all the books at home because many are stuck in piles there.
With the software, I can also enter those books I photographed at the library of congress. Their location would obviously be a location on my hard drive but they’d be in my database and more easily found. The system also allows me to enter miscellaneous papers, data sets, studies, monographs or whatever. I put those in a binder and enter them as a book, assigning a location etc. I’ve had a hard time keeping track of research materials.
The last great thing about the program is handling loans. You can track to whom you’ve lent your books which is great. I lend a lot of mine -and usually to people I’ve never met. At some point I’ll upload my list of titles so you can see if there’s something you want to borrow.
Below is a picture of mostly unsorted books. Some are color coded from my earlier organization attempt several years ago.
Below is a picture of the system in process, still not done but farther along than it looks. The shelf assignments are left to right, top to bottom, A, B, C, D etc. The only shelves completed in this picture are B, D, E and H.
Shelf A will end up being mostly green books (they’re there now but not color coded). Some of my most favoritist books are here. I wish I had an excuse to use some of them for posts but I can’t think of a reason to. The books on shelf C are some of the foreign drafting books, not all are color coded yet. Those will go on another bookshelf on the other side of the room which is mostly for blue (home sewing, crafting) books. Maybe you can see how this system might help you if you tend to collect a lot of the same kinds of books. If you were to organize strictly by dewey decimal, you’d end up with a lot of books you don’t use often, hogging primary shelf space.
I went round and round over this. If you have a bar code scanner or one of those cue cats, you can use that. I didn’t have one so I got a cordless one. I ended up buying Symbol CS1504 from Total Barcode. It’s small enough to put on a key chain but it’ll hold over 150 scans. Do not make my mistake and get the USB adapter. Later I found out that the USB isn’t as accurate, you’ll need to use a port. Another use of the scaner, being portable, is that you can take it to the book store and scan titles there. This is useful if you’re price shopping. Readerware is integrated with all of the book selling sites and databases on the web and the program tracks books you want to buy, not just ones you own. Once the scans are uploaded, it will search the web for the lowest price.
The Demco site has got to be the worst. Product links EXPIRE! You have to do it the long way (boy, somebody find me another vendor fast). You have to type in “magazine cases” in the search box. Then, you have to hit the “go” button. Hitting “enter” on your keyboard does nothing. Anyway, its the second one down. Alternatively, paste this >WS14258160< in the search box and hit “go”.