If you’re like me, you just want a way to organize your home library that’s simple and manageable long-term. I homeschooled my kids through high school and started a home library when my oldest was a baby.
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My husband and I were book lovers, so we collected more books than anything else. You can read more about our book-loving family in this post: How to Help Your Child Treasure Books.
Fortunately, I discovered a system early on that I was able to maintain through my kids’ graduation from homeschool high school. We lived in four different houses and moved our books with us each time. Each time, it was simple to set up our home library.
And I need simple routines I can manage. I’m not a born-organized person. (You can read more about my need for Montessori and Fly Lady to keep any semblance of organization: How Fly Lady and Montessori Help Me Keep My House Clean.)
Of course, you might be a born-organized person who enjoys a more elaborate system for organizing your home libray. That’s awesome. Just find what works for you.
Or, you might be a homeschooler who just enjoys frequent visits to the public library rather than creating a home library. That works perfectly well, too. It’s important to provide plenty of reading materials at home to give your children the best opportunity to become readers and book lovers. But you can do that with library books.
If you’re like many homeschoolers, though, you might like to set up a home library, especially if you use unit studies rather than textbooks for certain subjects. This system works with any size library. After my kids finished with homeschool high school, I sold a lot of our homeschool library and donated a lot of it to the public library. I kept some our favorite books for our grandkids. And those books are organized using the same system.
I’m not obsessive with the system. It’s designed so that I can always find a book easily. Minor variations aren’t important. Here’s what I did to organize our home library:
Some Simple Tips for Organizing a Homeschool Library
- Don’t worry about organizing baby and toddler books. We kept our baby- and toddler books on a low shelf where our baby or toddler could choose books easily. I just returned the books to the shelf in no particular order. You could use a basket for the books instead of a shelf.
- I didn’t use any labeling for our books. It really wasn’t necessary, and I appreciated that my kids’ books were in good to excellent condition and without labels when it was time to sell or donate them. My earlier post tells what we did to teach our children to take care of books from an early age.
- We used bookshelves organized from left to right and top to bottom (ingrained from my Montessori training). When our kids were little, my husband and I kept our books on the top shelves and our kids’ books on the lower shelves.
- For preschoolers on up, I organized fiction books by author. I didn’t worry about alphabetizing a particular author’s books. It’s still possible to find a specific book when they’re organized by author without needing a more detailed classification.
- If you’d like more order within your fiction section, you could organize it by genre, like bookstores do.
- You could have a basket for your child to place books after he or she looks at them until your child is old enough to put the book back in its place on the proper shelf. Of course, book baskets can be helpful for storing library books or unit study books even with older children.
- Like libraries, I organized most biographies according to the last name of the person who was the subject of the biography or autobiography. If a particular biography worked better within another category (such as artists), I used that.
- I organized non-fiction books according to the Dewey Decimal System. I typed out the entire Dewey Decimal System in the pre-computer era and always kept that list in an accessible place. Now, you can just print out a copy of the Dewey Decimal System or refer to it online. For my current home library, I keep the Wikipedia article about the Dewey Decimal System open on my iPhone. I only use the level of organization that’s necessary to be able to find books easily.
- If I were to use an app to catalogue my entire library, I would probably use the Book Buddy App. I’ve heard lots of good things about it, but it sounds like a huge job to initially organize a large library with it.
And that’s it! 🙂
Note: If you’d like my recommendations for books in a wide variety of themes, check out my books category.
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Jessica Lynette says
Great ideas!! I recently redid our largest bookshelf (http://www.jessicalynette.com/school/the-homeschool-bookshelf/) and you’ve got some great tips in here I will start implementing – especially the empty basket for them to put books into!!!
Thanks, Jessica! You did a great job with your bookshelf! Even though my kids are grown, I really should use the start of the school year to organize some shelves and closets in my house … good excuse for some decluttering and organizing! 🙂
Thanks for sharing! We are just starting the homeschooling journey and already are a bit overrun by books! http://thehandleyhome.blogspot.com/2012/07/abc-name-blocks.html
Thanks for your comment, Helen! It’s so easy for that to happen with homeschooling … I loved having a way to always find the book I wanted among all our books! 🙂
This is going to come in handy when I get around to arranging all of our books once we get moved and settled. Thanks so much for the information.
Thanks so much, Ashley! I hope it works well for you, too! 🙂
Miss Courtney says
As a children’s librarian, I love that you organized using Dewey! I just un-organized our books by putting them in groups by topic. We have more books than shelf space, so this will help us with a rotating collection.
Thanks, Miss Courtney! I always loved using the Dewey Decimal System! It was so nice to have a system that worked well without having to think it out for myself. I also liked that it had sub-categories I could use when I ended up with too many books within an area … and I liked the flow of books from one category to the next. 🙂
I find using Library Thing (www.librarything.com) EXTREMEMLY helpful. It allows me to create a searchable catalog of our books by Title, Author, Subject, or customized tags. It also allows me to see if we already own a book before making a duplicate purchase–which I’ve done before 😉
Thanks for your comment and the link, Veronica! Library Thing does look like a great system! 🙂
Our family relies heavily on our local library for most of our homeschooling books. Over the summer break my son and husband built these wonderful book shelves in our hallway outside of our schoolroom. Each of the kids has their own shelves and I have my teacher “themed” books on another shelf. The rest of our books I have organized by core subject/topic in our closet in the schoolroom where I keep all of the teacher manuals.
You have some wonderful ideas that I will have to look into next school year. Thanks for linking up to my Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop!
Thanks so much for your kind comment, Jill … and thanks for the link to your husband’s tutorial! How lucky that you have such a handy and helpful husband (and son)! The DIY bookshelves are awesome! I pinned your post to my Literature-Based Activities Board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/literature-based-activities/
I just wanted to let you know I featured this at TGIF this week as the most clicked on link (http://www.livinglifeintentionally.blogspot.com/2012/08/tgif-linky-party-43.html) Thanks for sharing this resource and linking it up to TGIF! I look forward to seeing you again this week!!
Have a GREAT weekend,
It was so exciting to see that this was the most-clicked post last week! Thanks so much for hosting each week, Beth. I’m already linked up for this week. I hope you had a great weekend, too! 🙂
Wonderful tips, Deb. We have quite the collection already thanks to my sister going from elementary school teacher to stay at home mom recently. I love the suggestion to not label books. Thank you for sharing with The Sunday Showcase.
Thanks so much, Allison! I was definitely happy not labeling our books … it saved so much time and was better for me in the end anyway! 😉
It’s a great idea to organize your books. It makes them so much easier to find. Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Showcase!
I have almost 6000 books in my homeschool library. I organize my homeschool and library by geography and historical era. Accordingly, I put fiction in with its historical or geographical setting. Easy with historical fiction, but also with other situational fiction. I don’t collect fantasy.
I put biographies in their historical time period. I organize Science by Dewey decimal, art by how-to’s and art-appreciation. Music is all together on one shelf, and math is by grade level.
I wonder how people organize such a volume of books. I don’t have enough shelving space, so I have boxes in the basement!
Linda (32 Year Montessori teacher) says
I have fiction & non-fiction early learning books (for 2-5 year-olds) filed together. Science, then plants, then animals in alphabetical order. I also have one shelf organized by months of the year so that I can pull special interest books I use every year: Sept- back to school, Oct- Fall, leaves, Halloween, Nov – pilgrims, thanksgiving, Dec. winter, Christmas/Hannuka, Jan.- snow, MLK etc. For older children I separate fiction into reading levels, color coded and level numbered. Non- fiction into categories, animals and plants by kingdom and then alphbetical within that.
Hi! I am a tremendous fan of “real” books and have around 1,500 of them in a home library. I have four non homeschooled children who are getting old enough to show independent interest in the weird little book-filled room upstairs where we never ever go.
I’m looking for advice from you or any of your readers. How can I make my library welcoming for the 8 and 9 year old set? They all have their own shelves of Children’s books in their own rooms so my library is dedicated to adult books. I would love to share pictures to see if you have obvious ideas about layout, but I’m not sure I can do that here …
If you are interested, please email me at Lisa@ Go Zhang. Com