How do you sort your personal offline library?

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How do you sort your personal offline library?

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jun 22, 2017, 1:52am

I've seen a few random posts when searching for how people sort their libraries in their homes, but this dormant group seemed like the best fit for the question, so how do you do it?

I read that some people Fiction and then Non-Fiction by Subject, but what Subjects exactly? I'm having a hard time deciding what to include.

I personally have been grouping non-fiction and fiction together by author except for Biography (by subject name), Art, and Reference. I'm moving all of my books though, and I'm thinking there may be a better way.

As I see it, most people in their homes do Fiction by author and then some implement the dewey system or their own form of BISAC.

I think I have about 2-3,000 books (not all in librarything yet), and it seems like the size of your library matters a lot when picking a system, so I'm just curious what others are doing.


jun 22, 2017, 7:35am

A major consideration is who is using the collection. If only a few people use it, and they know the books, you can sort differently than if a lot of people are looking for books they are not familiar with. It can make sense to make the first division 'her books', 'his books', 'our books' according to who is likely to want them.

It also depends what sorts of books you have. We have science fiction and fantasy shelved in one room, thrillers in another (his books, and I don't have to see that they aren't in any discernable order), and other fiction in yet another. Oh, yes, children's books, books on the British canals, and books on India are in their own sections with the related nonfiction.

If you have a wide variety of nonfiction, a premade classification system may work for you, but Dewey may not be the best solution for a large collection concentrated on limited subjects. For one thing, mixing large and small books is an inefficient use of space when the main user of the collection knows the books involved. For another, different people will decide differently whether an Italian vegetarian cookbook belongs with cookbboks by country or with other vegetarian cookbooks. Is the same choice right for an Indian vegetarian cookbook? In my case, the Italian one is with the vegetarian cookbooks, but the Indian one with the other Indian cookbooks.

My theology books are shelved by a home grown system that works for me. My cookbooks and needlework books are not systematically shelved, but by topic and size in their bookcases.

jun 22, 2017, 8:24am

The biggest question is "What works for you?" Which is essentially what MarthaJeanne said. The point of a shelving system is so that you can quickly find a book. This is essential for public libraries, where there are always new patrons who are unfamiliar with how things are shelved, but perhaps not so essential for you if you are the only person who reads your books.

On the other hand, I own ca. 400 books and I am the only one who uses them. Yet I have a strict shelving system because I'm also a classification geek. :)

I invented my own system based on BISAC, Thema, Dewey, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and my own imagination. Because I don't really own a lot of books, I did not mess with assigning numerical values to the concepts that underlay the system. Systems like Dewey really just have numbers because it keeps things concise and looks nice on the spine labels. It's the ideas that really matter.

I ended up with a system that tries to cover the broad spectrum of human knowledge, but also focuses on what I actually have in my collection. So broadly, I've got Humanities, Arts & Languages, Science & Mathematics, Special Topics, and Fiction. The Humanities section, for example, is far more granular than Science & Mathematics, because I read a lot of history and theology, but very little science and math.

I'm naturally a person who sees patterns, so maybe this comes easier to me than others, but I think if you start looking at your books and thinking, "What is the topic of this book?" about each one, you'll see that you tend to collect around certain topics and themes.

jun 27, 2017, 1:43am

Thanks for the replies, I always find it really interesting to see what other people are doing. After all my books are in librarything I think I'll switch to a more subject based sorting and give that a whirl.