The Secret Life of Librarians, Part 1: The Unorganized Library


So we’re thinking of moving soon, and one thought (among many) on my mind is how will we arrange our vast collection of books once we get our new place.  New places can be new opportunities, right?  It’s true we have the Dewey decimal system, and that works. But what else is there beside Dewey? What was there before he came up with his decimal classification system for books it was very hard to find the book anyone was looking for.  Does this really mean that all librarians are organized all the time?


As a librarian I can say that it is a bend that most of us have.  My own personal bookshelves at home are organized by subject, as are the clothes in my closet (winter, summer, autumn/spring, and also subgroups such as t-shirts, Aloha shirts, golf shirts, etc).  Even my children’s names are in alphabetical order (first and middle).


Then a question popped into my mind: Do libraries have to be organized by the Dewey Decimal?  What other ways are there to organize a library?  How did the library look before Dewey used math to group it?  Most likely by subject, but how else could Dewey have decided to arrange them?


Here are some of the possible ways libraries could’ve been organized if Dewey decided to skip the math concept.  These may also work in your home library as well.


(1)   Organize them by color:  This is the most popular method organization other than by subject.  It can be very visually appealing.


(2)  Organize them by what you are most likely to read.  This one can be done on more than one bookshelf.  Take up the prime real estate with your favorites.  The one’s you read less, but still like or just can’t part with can be in a less likely space somewhere else in your house.


(3)  Another popular way to arrange your bookshelves is by emotional response.  How does the book make you feel?  If you have friends that ask to borrow books that might be funny, sad, thrilling, etc., you may want to arrange your books this way.


(4) Last, but not least, a little movement known as Spine Poetry.  This is where you arrange the books on your shelves to communicate a sentence, phrase, or idea.  It’s fun to do, fun to read, and makes for a great conversation piece.


How would you arrange your library? 






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