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Family Library Organizing Tips

How do you best organize a family library?

You have book cases in every room, even the bathrooms!

Once you took a stab at organizing your books, but now there are so many more! What can you do? Build a small home library!

This is going to have to be a family effort. What do family members want? Do they each want their own books in their own rooms, or just some of their books in their own space, and a majority in common spaces for sharing?


Spaces like a kitchen that have specific activities should have books like cook books in that room or in the space where you do meal planning. Books about crafts or woodwork or gardening in those spaces where those activities are done or planned.

Lower shelves should be for the smaller children. Even a crawling baby can have their own cloth and cardboard book shelf. Books then go up higher as family members grow taller. The tallest member of your family should be able to reach the top shelf easily. While it may be tempting to put shelves up to the high ceiling, resist. Hang pictures up there.

Read-alouds go on bedside tables for as long as the interest lasts. This is also essential for library books, so they don’t get mixed up with owned books. If you have a 2-story house, have fixed tables upstairs and down where the library books can be set down. Often with small children, sort by popularity, with the most popular within easy reach.

Traveling books. These are inexpensive paperback books or magazines that can be taken in the car, and no one will cry too hard if they get lost. These could be kept in the car, or at a spot near the door where you leave your house. True, these days many have their library on a Kindle or iPad. This all depends on how safe you feel about getting these items returned where you are going. Going to grandma’s house? Fine. Take the Kindle. Going to the beach? Nope. Take the paperback.

Now, you could try using the Dewey Decimal System for Kids to organize your home library for children, but we found out that computers weren’t invented when Dewey invented his system, let alone other electronics. In the Dewey Decimal System, computers get put in the same category as mythical beings, such as Bigfoot. This left out huge sections of our library. A more flexible organizing system, familiar to those using bookstores, is the Library of Congress Classification System. They do include computers under Subclass QA, but we’d need to subdivide by computer language, operating system, web development, etc. You can use Amazon to see what categories they put books in, though often some are in multiple categories, or miscategorized completely.

In general, once books are sorted by kids’ books and grownups’ books, sort by fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction books are can be first sorted by genre, if you have a lot of one type. For example: mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy, great books, etc. Then place on shelves by author’s last name. When you have several books by one author, if it is a series, place in order to be read – vol 1, vol 2, etc. If they could be read in random order, then alphabetically by title. Kids will begin to understand that they have favorite authors or favorite genres this way, and it will help them find new books to read.

Non-fiction gets trickier. In a family, again sort by reading level, and give the littler kids the lower shelves on a similar topic. For example, you may want to have a science bookcase or two or three. Organize by type of science. Biology – Plants and Animals, Astronomy – Earth Science, planet science, Chemistry – courses, experiment ideas, Physics – easy-advanced. Fine tune by how many you have in your collection. In our house, computer science needs several book cases all their own. New topics appear, such as climate change, though I suppose that fits into Earth Science.

History – decide whether you want this to be just non-fiction, or if historical fiction could be mixed in. Sort by time period (Ancient history), and/or place (US History)

A military family recommended “GoodReads.” They scanned the barcodes (which works as long as books still have covers, or you have to type in the ASIN numbers.), and then created either shelves or boxes for each book. As they moved a lot, and didn’t always unpack the book boxes, they could use the database to find a needed book.

Other uber organizers use software to organize their book collections.

Libib – Libib does not sort it for you. You assign it to a library, or can have one BIG library and organize by groups (I have all our American Girl books grouped together, same for all the Wimpy Kid books) and/or by TAGS…and you can have multiple tags on a book. So I use tags to indicate age/grade levels, subject areas, genre, topics, etc. There’s also a notes area. You could use TAGS or alternate libraries to do that in Libib. Easiest to use. Most recommended by other homeschool parents.

Collertorz.com – Catalog your movies, books, music, comic books and video games. Just enter titles or scan barcodes for automatic item details and cover images. All software solutions (for desktop, online or mobile) come with free CLZ Cloud storage for your collection data. Use the CLZ Cloud storage for online backup, syncing between devices or sharing your collection list with friends.

Library Thing – Enter what you’re reading or your whole library. It’s an easy, library-quality catalog. LibraryThing connects you to people who read what you do. Includes a social network of readers. 200 items for free. $10/year or $25/lifetime.


Delicious Library – Catalog everything. Like, 10,000s of items. You don’t even own enough items to hit the limit. See your collection’s current value, total pages and other data. Because charts are awesome. Go ahead, judge your friends. Rate stuff you don’t even own. Get better recommendations.

GoodReads – GoodReads doesn’t sort for you either, though you can sort manually (eg when you put books away into boxes). You can ‘shelve’ them into a “shelf” marked “box 1,” etc. so you know where to find them if you desperately need to get the chick lit out again.

Book Crawler – Book Crawler is your personal portable book database for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch device, and now available for your Mac Desktop!  Now avid readers have a simple and dependable tool to catalog and share their favorite book collections in one app!  Book Crawler was designed to provide a real-time solution for the avid reader who requires a powerful and intuitive database for logging, searching, and organizing publications and authors of interest.


While I like the idea of creating a digital catalog of our books, I don’t want to do it all by myself.

Do any of the mentioned software collection apps allow for multiple “editors” of the content? We all have iPhones, and so all could scan books in. Just need something to not let us step on each other’s toes while doing it. (Duplicating books in error, for example. Or not getting upset because sometimes we do have multiple copies.) We could keep the database in the Cloud. Need some direction on how to have a family cloud space for this project.

With GoodReads, you could all use the same account, and just log in on each of your devices. As far as being sure duplicates aren’t scanned, maybe you could put a system into place where all newly scanned books go onto a certain “shelf”, and then from there, you parce them out into their own genres, etc.

What about donating books?

You create a “shelf” called “Donated Books” and move those books to that shelf.

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