Home > Around the house > you’re not cool … if you don’t organize your bookshelves

you’re not cool … if you don’t organize your bookshelves

20081027-dsc_00501Behold the bookshelves of glory!

Several weeks ago I promised to up my dork quotient by posting a second installment in a three part series on organizing my home library. 

In my first post, “you’re not cool… if you don’t organize your home library“, I shared my discovery of the Delicious Library software.  

If you remember, Delicious Library allows you to create a digital card catalogue of all your books (as well as other media) and even includes a feature that will check out books to your friends.  It will even send your friends (who may now be considered enemies) dirty email reminders if they don’t return your books on time.

In other words – Delicious Library is awesome.

(To those of you whose books are due – you now know that I know who you are and I know where you live).

Delicious Library really is a great piece of technology, but it is essentially worthless if you don’t have a solid organizational system where you actually keep your books – on the shelves.

Every library is different, so every library will be organized a little bit differently.  

Larger libraries require more structured organization system than smaller libraries.  I learned this the hard way when I moved to Louisville to attend seminary at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  As a college student, my library was relatively small and it was easy to keep my books in order with only a rudimentary organization system.  

My Library Story

Over my three years in Louisville, my library increased in number – but not in organization.  The result was a lot of books and a lot of frustration when I wanted to find a book I needed.

When we moved to Jackson, I knew that I was going to have to upgrade my library.

The Shelvestarget-shelf

I started with finding the perfect shelves on the budget.  The shelves had to look good, be made out of wood, be strong enough to hold heavy books without bowing, and work on a tight budget – thanks Target for hooking us up.

Tell me if I am wrong, but I think that Target’s 5 shelf espresso bookshelves we found meet all of the criteria.  They come in at only $99 and, if you are lucky, you can actually find them on sale for $85.

The System

Having found the perfect shelves, it was time to figure out how to organize my books so they would be easy to find them when I needed them.  Since I had previously erred on the side of simplicity, I decided to start thinking about my system with the big boys – Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress.

If you really want to be thrilled with my reasoning, drop a comment, otherwise I will will go ahead and spoil your anticipation and say that I started with the Library of Congress Classification system as the starting point from which I would build my own system.

Again, the details are mind numbing, but the basic idea is that the LCC made the most sense with the kinds of books I have, so I did a little bit of modification and here is what I came up with for my shelves:

  • Antique Books (Works, Reference, Religion, Literature)
  • Commentaries
  • Bibles
  • Reference Works
  • Philosophy
  • World Religion
  • Mormonism
  • Languages
  • Bible (transmission of/hermeneutics)
  • Works (by various authors)
  • Theology (Biblical, Systematic, Historical, Misc Topics)
  • Applied Theology (“Christian Living”)
  • Church History/Misc History
  • The Church (incl. sermons)
  • Misc. Leadership
  • Gender/Sex/Marriage
  • Biography
  • Culture/Apologetics
  • Art
  • Miscellaneous Practical
  • Fiction

These categories work perfectly for my library, allowing the right amount of structure with room for flexibility as my library interests broaden and change.  

It only took me about 7 months to purchase shelves, another few weeks to get my books out of their boxes, 2 weeks to put all of the books into the Delicious Library software, and about 2 months to get everything together and organized on its proper shelf.

Hopefully this is not an exercise in bookish boasting (which would be massively dorky) and maybe this has helped you out or, for some of you, fulfilled your weirdo desires to know what is going on behind the closed doors of my den.

Yet to come … what do I do with random articles and paper clippings that I want to keep track of?

Interested in learning more? Check out Tim Challies blog post “How to Organize a Personal Library


***IMPORTANT WORD OF THANKS: A special thanks has to go out to Lee’s parents (Scott and Lesa Wilson) and grandparents (Don and Sue Leach) for generously buying us the bookshelves we needed to get the books out of their boxes and in the the fresh air.  Not to mention the gift of the french doors alluded to as the “closed doors of my den” above.  Love you Mom, Dad, Papa, and Nana!

  1. Brandon
    November 12, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Delicious Library is the best. I love it.

  2. kelly beth
    November 16, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    lee-might i just say.
    had it been…..5 months ago. i would have made fun of your for these organization skills. HOWEVER, i must admit, that i RECENTLY organized my apt closest. and you dont understand HOW BIG OF A DEAL THIS IS. My mother awards me for “messiest room ever” when i was living at home but….you know what…. i changed my mind. im still going to make fun of you: WEIRDO!!!!!!

  3. leewilson7170
    November 17, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    KBC –

    May your room explode with piles of dirty laundry.


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