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

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Q&A My books have gone from Calibre, how do I get them back?

ceri's q and aMy books have gone, how do I get them back? A quick tip from A Simpler Guide to Calibre.

A Simpler Guide to Calibre
A Simpler Guide to Calibre, available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.

It can happen that when you first load Calibre your books all seemed to have disappeared. This is usually because the software has been told your e-books library has moved to a different folder and is now pointing to the wrong place. This has happened to me during upgrades for example. Another reason may be that a special file called metadata.db (which is in the folder where your books are stored) has been deleted or corrupted. You will either need to tell Calibre where your books really are or rebuild the f
ile that is missing.

If your library has moved

Find the Calibre Library icon/logo (as seen below), then choose Switch/create library.

Switching to a Calibre library

Click on the little picture to the right of the box to browse your computer for the folder you just created and ignore the already checked Use the previously existing library at the new location and click OK. Your books should now reappear.

If the file metadata.db has been moved or corrupted

If you cannot find a file named metadata.db in the top folder where your library is located on your computer, it has been deleted. You may also encounter problems if it has been corrupted in some way. To fix this:

  1. First right-click on the Calibre icon in the Calibre toolbar (as above) and choose Library maintenance.
  2. Select Restore database and Calibre will rebuild the metadata.db file.

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Q&A Have a small library but cannot afford a library management system (LMS) like Oliver, Unicorn or IS OXFORD? How about trying Calibre the free ebook library software?

Final - CALIBRE EBOOKI worked in libraries for over 11 years before giving up work to look after my son and write books. I understand that sometimes small libraries whether they are school libraries or corporate information departments don’t have the money to buy a full-blown library catalogue.

When you work in these organisations you may not need all the features of a full-blown library management system. If that is the case for you, give Calibre a look.

Calibre is free software downloadable from the internet. You can install it like any desktop application on your computer and use tags to catalogue your book’s physical locations.

In my book, A Simpler Guide to Calibre, I also explain how you can use tags to mark a book as out on loan or have virtual libraries so you can see at a glance which books are on loan and their due date.

If you only need a library catalogue for basic cataloguing but no budget or accessible IT department then Calibre could be your answer. Have one computer in your library set up and use it to search and loan your books.

You can not only use the catalogue to find your ebooks (which it is designed for) but you can add physical media such as music CDs or movie DVDs. The software can be used in a variety of ways with a little imagination.

It’s a great way to have a classic ebook collection. Fill up the catalogue with Jane Austen’s, Edgar Allan Poe’s or Robert Louis Stevenson’s books from the Gutenberg project and have a classic collection that will entertain for hours at no extra cost. You can add kindle addresses and get them sent to your customers’ Kindles.

If you don’t have a budget but you need an easy way to organize your books why not give it a try? The software is free after all!

Please stay tuned for other ways to get the most out of Calibre.

Thanks for dropping by.

Now for the obligatory mention of my relevant book:

Final - CALIBRE EBOOKA Simpler Guide to Calibre: How to organize, edit and convert your eBooks using free software for readers, writers, students and researchers for any eReader.

Buy from Amazon:

eBook | Paperback

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