Friday, July 18, 2008

How I organized my homeschool library.

I'm so pleased that I have finally been able to organize my 1,330 volumes (plus others yet uncataloged) in a way that lets the whole family find books easily and put them away properly. I was sick of the kids getting interested in a topic or asking a question and having to tell them, "I know we have a book about that, but where is it?"

I searched and searched for ideas before starting the project several months ago and came up empty. Let me know if this is helpful to you!

1. I obtained all the shelving I could. An old desk with shelves, a TV cabinet and other pieces helped fill the need. Anybody want to come and build me some custom shelving? Homeschoolers can never have too much.

2. I decided on categories for my books. I wanted them to be specific enough to be able to find books when needed, yet broad enough that it wouldn't be over-organized with only a few books per category.
  • Board Books
  • Early Readers
  • Storybook sets (Seuss, Curious George, etc.)
  • Series (Little House, Encyclopedia Brown)
  • Language and Sign Language
  • Math
  • Science (I have subcategories here to keep them together: Magic School Bus, Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-About-Science, National Geographic set)
  • Farm
  • History and Geography
  • Bible/Religion
  • Art
  • Music Books
  • Character and Communication
  • Holidays and Seasons
  • Five in a Row/Before Five in a Row
  • Sonlight C
  • Sonlight 1
  • Sonlight 2
  • Workbooks (Explode the Code, coloring books)
  • Homeschooling Theory/Practice
  • La Leche League Library
  • Parenting and Childbirth (not LLL)
  • Picture books
  • Cookbooks
  • Novels
  • Chapter books
  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (the 20 books it recommends using)
  • Sports
  • Magazines

Some books fit into more than one category, so I pick the one where I need them the most. For example, books used with our school curriculum this year might be history related and chapter books, but I label them Sonlight 1 because I need to have them available with the curriculum.

3. I cataloged my books by registering for a free Your Media Library account and entering the ISBN numbers. There are other choices for tracking books, such as LibraryThing. Amazon's Your Media Libary allows a spot to note the location of the book. This is where I enter my self-named category from above. You could also choose a physical location, such as "hallway shelf" or "girls' bedroom."

4. I obtained lots and lots of colored dot, star and other stickers. I found that the Avery dots are not only expensive, but are removeable. I wanted permanent, inexpensive ones. I found that the cheap brands such as Z-International actually stick better; just make sure they're labeled permanent or test one out of the package. I found assorted sets such as these at Walgreens and variety stores. Often they're sold for garage sale tags.

If you're willing to pay more for huge quantities, you can also buy them from library supply companies such as these from Demco. Another option would be to cut strips or hole punch or decorative punch shapes from address labels or colored adhesive sheets. You can even use those circular reinforcers you put on hole-punched paper.

I color code my books, but you could use a certain number of strips or dots to indicate each category instead. In cases where I didn't have enough colored dots, I doubled up. I put a little one in the middle of a big one to mean a different category.

5. I applied the stickers to the books' spines. I put the bottom of each sticker one inch from the bottom so they would be nice and neat when all in a row on the shelves. The width of a standard ruler would be just right to help align them easily.

6. I tried to assign one or two shelves per category of book, then put the books on the correct shelf.

7. I printed out a color-code key so my family can figure out where to find and reshelve things (well, at least find them). I just printed the list of categories and stuck an actual sticker from that category on the paper next to the appropriate name.

8. I haven't yet labeled the shelves, but I really should. That would make it easier so my family could find books at a glace without having to check the key each time.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Sue,
I joined Library thing for $19.00 for lifetime membership. I might use some of your color coded ideas, though.

Sue said...

Note: Some of my colored dots are falling off, including those that are supposed to be permanent and of high quality, so I stick a piece of transparent tape over top. I like the Scotch tape in the purple package, or red gift wrap tape instead of the typical green package.

The sticker issue is probably in part due to the high humidity in my basement, which I realize is a horrible place to store books. Soon enough our home remodel will be done and I'll store them in a better place!