I just recently bought a house, and it’s big enough that there’s room for a dedicated personal library. I’m very excited! It presents a really fun challenge: how do I organize my books now that I have enough space to display all of them? (Previously, I had been just shoving a bookcase wherever it would fit and stacking books on tables. I expect I’ll probably continue to do that, but the majority of my books will now fit in a single room.)
I was in library school when I first learned that some people organize their books by color. The effect is really cool, and I don’t think it would be that difficult to find a particular book since I tend to remember what color my own books are. I actually have this IKEA bookshelf where I’ve organized a few of my books in roy g biv on their sides from top to bottom. It looks pretty neat. When I was first dating my boyfriend, he moved into a new apartment and I convinced him to let me organize his books by color because I really wanted to see what it would look like. I found out later that he hated the idea, but he let me do it anyway. (Aww.) I can definitely see the drawbacks. For example, a lot of series books wouldn’t be shelved together since they each have a different cover color, like the Harry Potter books.
Aside from the IKEA shelf, my books right now (prior to moving into the new house) are organized in the standard alphabetical order by author’s last name. Most of what I own is fiction, and the few nonfiction titles I have occupy a single shelf and they’re not really in any particular order.
I say that my fiction is organized in alpha order, but that’s true only to a certain extent. Because we have limited space in our rental, I’ve divided them into hardbacks and paperbacks. The hardbacks go against the back of the shelf and the paperbacks go in front of the hardbacks. Most of my shelves are deep enough that this works without any of the books hanging over the edge. In theory, this allows me to see all of my books at once. In practice, I still have to lean the paperbacks forward to see the title of the hardbacks. I hope that this won’t be necessary in the new place. My graphic novels I also keep separate, and they occupy just a couple of shelves next to my cookbooks in the kitchen. (You see what I mean about putting books wherever there’s space?)
When I was a kid/teen and living with my parents, I’d frequently take a couple of hours and reorganize my bookshelf in my bedroom for fun. I loved looking at all of my books and remembering a title I had forgotten I had. At the time, I had a single bookcase and it seemed like I had quite a lot of books. Teenage Kimberly would look at my current collection and feel awed. I know the trend nowadays is often to downsize material possessions, including book collections, but acquiring books has always made me feel good and I’ve come to like that aspect of my personality. I do have a lot of books that I haven’t yet read, but the fact that they’re there comforts me. I always have a book at hand, on almost any topic, whenever the itch hits me – sci fi, contemporary, romance, high fantasy, classic, middle grade, YA, adult. I strongly associate books with memories, so almost each title I pick up reminds me of something good, like the first time I attended a library conference or a particularly engaging undergrad literature class.
In my new house, I’ve been toying with the idea of organizing my books more like they’re organized in a library. I think I want to separate my adult books from my children’s and teen books, and I may even decide to separate them by genre as well. I doubt I’ll go the color route, since I’ll be sharing the space with my boyfriend’s books (we don’t interfile!) and it would look a little odd to have some shelves in the room color-coded and others not.
I thought it might be fun to take a little informal poll to see how our readers organize their personal book collections. Feel free to elaborate on your system in the comments!