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S/O of 'Clean Your House' books, Books, Books!

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In our living room, we have a shelving unit 37 feet long and five shelves high.  The thing is packed.  There are also full book cases of varying sizes scattered around the place.  Every window sill is loaded.  The only places you can't see books are in the bathrooms. 

We need to get this collection into some sort of order but, since our books literally cover the range from Aeronautics to Zyzergy, we have a problem.  I'm a retired librarian and should be able to do this but, every time I begin, there's so much barge-toting and bale-hauling to be done I feel like I'm trying to solve a Rubik's Cube wearing a blindfold. 

I don't want to go back to the text books and classify the whole mess in Sears, Dewey or LC.  That wouldn't quite work for us because  Mr. Thipu might not understand those methods. 

I do try to use the CIP information to determine where something should go but we have so many things that fall between two stools. Should 'the Brooklyn Cook Book' go with the other cook books in the kitchen or would it be better placed in the local history section?  Should the 'Pickpocket's Tale' be placed in the true crime or the NYC history section? 

Please do not suggest that the whole collection be shelved in alphabetical order.  Any and all other suggestions will be seriously considered.       

Outdoor Girl:
Sort by genre.  If you have any books that fall into two genres, set them aside, for now.  Pack up any you are willing to sell/donate/pitch right away and get them out before somebody decides to change their mind.

Designate one area per genre and reshelve everything by that genre in that area.  Then look at your fall betweens.  Shelve them with the genre that has the most space, or the most appropriate genre if you can decide at that point.

Okay, this is going to sound wacky, but... do you remember what book you want by how it looks? If you know you're looking for, for instance, a murder mystery with a black leather cover or a cookbook with a soft green cover, you could try grouping them by color and then by some other method (topic, author, title, etc).

I've seen several pictures online of a bookstore that has tried that approach, which seems like trouble, but in your own personal collection, if that's the way you remember books, that might actually be manageable. I would skip that approach for series, though, so they're all together, even if they aren't all bound the same way.

My parents' books are grouped by type, mostly, all text books together, all coffee table books together, all children's books together, but then within those groupings, I don't think there's much order.

We're having a similar problem at home, but on a much smaller scale.

I'd go with sorting by genre.  If there's something that could go between two genres, think about why you would be looking for that particular book and where you would first go to look.

For your cookbook example, I'm guessing that you'd be more likely to go looking for that book because you're looking for a particular recipe than for a history lesson.  If that's the case, sort it with the cookbooks.

I agree with MrTango.  I'd put it by where you'd look for the book.  The Brooklyn Cookbook with cookbooks because that's what you'd probably use it for.  I'd put the Pickpocket's Tale with true crime, because that's probably what I'd be looking for when I read it.  However, if you'd be more likely to look for it when you want to read books about NYC, then you could put it there.

I organize my nonfiction by type, but not according to Dewey Decimal or anything.  I just sort of put all my linguistics books before French, Hebrew, and Chinese, my husband's math books together, engineering together, all Bible study books together, etc.  But I don't attempt to make the linguistics/languages the 400s and the math and engineering in the 500s and 600s, or anything.  Usually once they're sorted, I just eye the shape and size of the books and shelves and decide what makes the most sense (if a lot of the linguistics books are tall, I look for a shelf that has more room in the height, etc.).  I might also put lesser-used books on the highest or lowest shelves, or double-stacked (a row of books in back and a row in front) since they will be accessed more rarely.

For fiction, I do alphabetize by author, and I don't usually sort by subject.  When I'm setting it up, I figure out how much room I need.  I estimate which shelf to put something on by assuming that K or L goes in the middle (I have more books by authors with names early in the alphabet, with Jane Austen and Agatha Christie really skewing the results.


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