In honor of the Tucson Festival of Books this week, we will focus on home libraries.
In the Romero house, Rosie has bookshelves upon bookshelves with stacks of books in just about every room in the house. Your book collection may be the same way. Mind you, Rosie’s books are not kept in a slovenly manner. They are stacked where he can still access them as needed or while in the “finish reading this one” category.
Voracious readers’ love affairs with reading lead most of us to collect books. We collect them for a variety of reasons. Some to re-read, others to loan out to friends and family, future reference, and for some a warm memory of a good read. Each of us has our reasons for keeping a book that just left our hand.
Whether on shelves or stacked on a desk or counter, there should be a method to arrange our collections. One suggestion is to keep books where you might need them. Cookbooks are an obvious example. Keeping them in the kitchen makes more sense than in the living room. Location matters. Current reading materials are typically resting where you read them. Some folks have bookshelves in living areas, studies, bedrooms (including the kids’ bedrooms), and of course, the bathrooms. Where you store your books is often the governing factor in how you store them. Typically, shelving for books can be from floor to ceiling or vertically. In some areas, only a shelf or two may be possible. The reality is, how we store our books becomes part of our home’s décor.
Organizing Your Collection
Your collection, however modest or extensive it may be, would probably benefit from some further coordination. Arrangement by topic is one such method. Rosie’s books are stored this way. You choose the topic classifications.
As noted, your library is probably not hidden in an unlived space. The bookshelves in your home are probably a major component of our décor. Organizing books by color can add a great deal to the look and feel of your home. Rosie’s daughter once arranged the home library by color. Jennifer said it was beautiful but made books harder to find — and that is your trade-off.
You can also sort by topics such as travel, history, current events, or any area of interest your collection may suggest. Fiction and non-fiction categories are always popular starting point. From there you can create the subcategories that fit you and your collection.
In any conversation about library organization, some acknowledgment has to be given to the Dewey Decimal System. This system divides topics or subjects into 10 main categories, (000 – 900), and those are further divided into subcategories. An example given by Bridgewater College is section 600 for Technology, 640 for Home Economics and Family Living, 641 for Food and Drink, and 641.5 for Cooking. You get the picture. Granted, most of our home libraries are probably not so extensive. A system such as this would be overkill. However, it does give us another method of organizing our home libraries.
Keeping a Book Journal
Once you have arranged your books, you may want to consider keeping a journal of the books you have.
Rosie makes a journal entry every time he finishes a book. A personalized journal is a great way to keep a record of the books we read. In Rosie’s journal, he might say something about the book, and will often include something about what’s going on in his and Jennifer’s lives at that time. That is a fantastic way to personalize your reading history. For some, a tidbit about the book can remind us of what we thought was special.
The journal can help you access a book when needed, and if you loan out your books, it is a great way to keep track of them. That step makes it more likely that you will get them back, too. Because Rosie often lends books, he embosses each one, usually on the first page, so the person borrowing the book knows to whom it ultimately belongs. There are several ways of marking the books in your collection. Simply writing your name on the inside front or back cover is perhaps the most common. Placing a tag on the book’s binding is another. Once placed on a shelf, that tag, possibly color-coded, is a visual reminder to return that book.
Some of our books have a special meaning to us, such as first editions, books obtained while on a trip, and books signed by an author. When receiving a book from someone, Rosie has them sign and date the book for the collection. He especially has them sign it if it is the author! Another Rosie tip, when you buy a book while on a trip, bring it to the local post office and have them date stamp it. The stamp will remind you when and where that book, or memory, originated.
Caring for Your Books
We would be remiss if we did not discuss how to care for the books in your library. For professional advice, we turned to the Library of Congress. Some of the advice on their website is common sense and worth repeating here. To begin, have clean hands. The oils on our skin can damage the pages over time. Keep food and drink from spilling on the book. Use a bookmark with a low acid makeup. Don’t dogear pages, use paper clips, sticky notes, or anything with an adhesive on it. Store your collection at room temperature and away from harsh light such as sunlight. Avoid storing books in basements or attics where the environment is more susceptible to temperature and humidity change.
Who knew there is a proper method for removing a book from the shelf? Grip the book on both sides of the spine and pull it out. Don’t grip the top of the spine and pull. Keep your books upright or flat, don’t lean them, as this may warp them. If you can, keep similar-sized books together on the shelf to add better support to neighboring books.
We would love to hear some of the ways you organize your library. Send your tips to email@example.com or visit us March 4-5, 2023, at the Tucson Festival of Books. We will be in Booth 218.
Rosie On The House on location from The 2023 Tucson Book Festival. Special guest with us is past director of The Arizona Registrar Of Contractors, Jeff Fleetham. We discuss the best things about State 48, how construction has become a building science and books, books, books!