Monday, June 5, 2017

Organizing a Homeschool Library

Disclaimer: We currently fall more under the category of "Afterschooling" family than "Homeschooling" category, but the library organization applies in either situation.  :)

While some women love to shop for purses, shoes, clothes, make-up, etc., my main shopping weakness is books.  I was the girl that dreamed of the library from Beauty and the Beast, instead of the prince.  Between garage sales, library book sales, Scholastic book orders and Amazon, we have accumulated quite the library of children's books.  Xander adores his books, spends hours a week (and sometimes a day) reading and rereading his books.  It's hard to feel guilty buying him more when I know they'll get put to good use!

However, with all the books we had, I was worried about some of them getting buried on the shelves, or not being able to find books we were looking for.  As soon as I finished my basement, I knew that new bookshelves were in order!  Since I also tend to have an obsessive need for organization, I needed to come up with a system of organizing those books!  After some research and some work, our new Homeschool Library was born!

There's an App for That
As I was deciding how to organize the library, I did quite a bit of Googling into apps and software to organize home libraries.  I finally landed on  Libib is a free cloud based database that lets me organize and categorize my books.  I can create multiple libraries and I can use my phone or iPad to scan barcodes, I can type in ISBN numbers, I can search for books or I can do a complete manual entry.  The vast majority of the books we own already had the information loaded into the website, I just had to add them to my library.  I can access the library anywhere I have internet (which will be handing when I'm at a garage sale and can't remember whether or not I have a particular book).  I can also export the library and its information into a spreadsheet.

The part of the app that was most valuable to me, though, was the tags.  For each book I was able to add tags, that I can use to search.  Just a few examples of tags I have are "Christmas," "Leveled Readers," "Weather," "Life Cycles", "Space," "Historical Figures," and "Character Development." Many books only have one tag, but many have several.  It took a lot of upfront work (which I did slowly over several weeks), but I am glad I did.  The power in it is that if we are studying a particular topic, I can easily type in a tag and find all the books we have related to that subject.  If Xander is interested in castles, for example, I can figure out all the books we have related to castles, even if they're not all stored together.  

On the Shelves
Luckily, there is  still quite a bit of room on the shelves.  Part of that is because I have chosen to store all of his chapter books on shelves elsewhere in the house.  I have dreams of someday having all the shelves together (and maybe even one of those beautiful IKEA corner shelving units with a ladder), but those dreams will have to wait for a bigger house.  Part of it is because I have not dug all of the board books out of storage, yet.  Someday we'll have more kids and then those shelves will be put to good use!

Below is the general way I categorized the shelves.  

I used to exclusively use those cardboard magazine organizers from IKEA, but they take up so much room on the shelves, particularly if they're not full.  I decided to still use those for our more seasonal books (holidays, seasons, toddler nonfiction books).  For the rest of the non-ficiton, I put them into categories separated by paint sticks.  I just used a fine-tipped sharpie to label the paint sticks.  They're cheap and easy enough that I can adjust the categories as our collection grows/changes.  The categories on the shelves do not necessarily match the categories in Libib (because Libib lets me have multiple tags).
The categorization of the non-fiction is easy enough.  I struggled a little more with the fiction.  I ended up having one shelf of fiction completely random.  There's no system and Xander can take and put in books however he'd like.  Some fiction, however, I decided I needed to categorize.  For example, we have several books by certain authors or in certain series, that it just made sense to keep together.  We have a category for the Bear Books by Karma Wilson, another for the Aurthur books, one for Eric Carle books and another for the Llama Llama Books.  I also ended up putting together a section for books about Love and Family.

Cleaning Up
As of right now, Xander can get out whatever books he wants to read, but I am not having him put them away.  He's supposed to put them in a pile and I will put them away for him.  While I encourage his independence, he tends to shove books onto shelves, bending pages and covers in the process.  We're working on it, but until then, I'm ok with putting the books away for him.

Room to Grow
While this is the current system, and I am very happy with it, I also see it growing and changing in the future.  The grownups books need a better place than boxes in my dad's basement.  I would also love to have something like the picture below for a playroom for younger kids.  I'm also open to other ideas and suggestions the readers have to make it even more efficient!
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