Home library: Storing books with no shelf space

book shelves in a home library

Question about a home library.

Answer based on the Quora question:

What is the best way to organize books if I don’t have a bookshelf?

If there is no shelf space available in your home librasry then sometimes the only way books can be stored is in a box hidden in a cupboard, the garage or even the attic. The question then is how do you find a book once is it is stowed away? Fear not Ceri Clark, former Librarian has the answer.

I used to be the library manager of the Audit Commission which had offices throughout England. There were some books in the office where I worked but there had to be about twenty at the most, the rest were held elsewhere. There was no storage space available at the offices so a former librarian had negotiated a contract to store the books in temperature controlled storage in some mines in Bath. We used the library catalogue in conjunction with some spreadsheets to keep track of the books. Whenever someone wanted a book we were emailed a request by the library catalogue and then we told the people at Restore which box the books were in.

How does this help me store my books in my home library?

I’m glad you asked. The same principles that ran the Audit Commission library can be used for your home library but on a much smaller scale. Say you have 3 boxes filled with fiction and non-fiction books, you can use Calibre (free software downloadable from the internet)  to catalogue your books.

Cataloguing your books is as simple as typing in the barcode into the software and it finding the book information on Amazon or some other database. All you would then need to do is label the boxes something as simple as Box 1, box 2 etc or something more detailed like Non-fiction books. Remember to write the Box number in the notes section in Calibre and voilà, when you search for the book on Calibre, it will tell you which box the book is currently stored in. If you have more than one storage space you can add this information too. For example Box 2, Attic or Box 3, Garage.

Another advantage of using Calibre over say a spreadsheet is that there is a cover flow so you can see at a glance whether the book is the right one. You can also search by tags which will put all the similar books together on one ‘shelf’ so if you are researching a subject and you have a number of books in it you can easily see what you need quickly as if you were browsing a real shelf in your hallway.

I have a chapter in A Simpler Guide to Calibre which goes into detail on how this can be done.

 

see question on quora

ceri's q and a

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