Fresh Start: How To Organize Your Personal Library

Through the years one accumulates many things, and in my case, one of the hardest things to control is the accumulation of books. School, changing interests, hobbies, vacations, projects, and presents, have all represented the addition of a few more books to my library, and although I try to control their influx, it is hard to keep the whole thing organized.

Intrigued by what would be the best way to organize one's books I did a little investigating in the internet and I found some helpful tips.

1. What stays and what goes? First figure out what you have and what you want to keep. A quick look through all of your books, piling different subsections together, might be helpful to see the different types of books you have. Also, separate the ones you haven't used or looked at in a while. If you haven't looked at them in more than a year and they have no emotional value for you, you should consider giving away or donating these books.

2. Where should they live? Books can get damaged easily. Water and infestation can quickly wipe out your library, so consider their location carefully. Anything away from the floor, pipes, air conditioners, radiators and the like would be a good idea.

3. How do I organize them? Now this step is of course, the longest and most complicated step. Create a system that makes sense to you and stick to it. In my case I decided to organize by theme/subject: design books, architecture books, photo books, reference books, etc.
Different criteria work for different people, and as long as you can figure out your own system and remember it later, anything goes. You can organize by subject, size, language, genre, color (a beautiful but perhaps not so practical approach), origin, etc.

Cataloging programs and websites:
Lately, more and more people tell me about different programs or websites they have used to organize their personal libraries. A quick search on the internet will show you that there are MANY of these programs and you should take a look at several to see which one would be best for you. Here are the ones that were most highly recommended to me:

Library Thing (www.librarything.com): With more than one million members, Library Thing is partly a book cataloging and partly a social networking tool. It allows you to organize and share your personal library and also, if you want, it can connect you to people with similar interests and suggest books you might like. It connects to the Library of Congress, Amazon and hundreds of libraries around the world to get the information you need. You can tag it, sort it, and organize it in many different ways. You can even keep track of the books you have lent out!
Also, if you are into statistics, you will love the information they provide about your books including graphs on the dates of publication, awards, languages, and even something called "Median/mean book obscurity."
Price: Free for the first 200 books. After that, $10 per year for a personal library or a $25 lifetime fee.

Delicious Library 2 (www.delicious-monster.com): A cataloguing application for Mac which allows users to manage not only their personal libraries, but also their collections of books, movies, or CDs. You can manually input your books by typing in the ISBN, you can drag and drop from an Amazon URL, or you can use your webcam to scan the barcode. It will automatically download an image and other important information.
Price: $35

I have also found that cataloging your library in this way will also help you keep track of e-books, consolidating your physical and virtual libraries into one.

(Image: Bookshelf Porn)