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A Children's Librarian at Home

Posted by Susan on February 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Libraries
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I spent a lot of time this weekend in the library, but I don't mean the public library where I work. I was organizing my home library.

We've moved a couple of times, and every time the bookshelves get set up, I struggle with how to arrange the books. My children's book collection has grown quite large and by now encompasses at least 5 bookcases.

This time when I shelved everything, I gave a great deal of thought to how my kids would use the library.

On the bottom shelf I always put board books (which are impossible to keep in order, of course). When my older son was a baby, we kept his toys and board books on the bottom shelves, so that he could play with anything he yanked off. At the moment, most of the board books are in the baby's room which has a built in bookcase. Baby book shelf
The picture books went on the lower shelves to make it easier for my son to reach them. I also set up a stool near the bookcases, so he can reach the books up top. (The picture books go up to the fourth shelf on each bookcase because I have so many).

My older son is starting to learn to read, so I pulled every early reader I had (2 shelves worth) and put them near the bottom also. That way, they're accessible any time he wants them. Early reader shelf
I couldn't leave it at that. I had lots more categories to organize! I made shelf space for compilations, Mother Goose, classics and poetry.
Classics and Compilations
I have a shelf for non-fiction, which I need to add to. Also, I always have a shelf for the Caldecott and Newbery winners (and I this year I'm going to add the honor books).
Caldecotts and Newberys
Comic strip books, like the magical Calvin and Hobbes have just about taken over their own bookcase. Comic Strip books
I've given holiday books their own special section. That way I don't have to search through all the picture books every time a holiday comes up. Holiday shelf
Chapter books are on the top shelves, including long series and favorite authors. Chapter books
And of course, Harry Potter gets a shelf of his own. Harry Potter shelf
Also, whenever I organize, I always leave a box open for donations. It's okay (but hard) to give away books, but it's also a good idea to remove books that you don't like or bought on an impulse. That way you'll have more room for the rest. Donation box

And yes, because I couldn't help it, I alphabetized the books by author. Only by letter though, so all the W books are on the same shelf. That makes it much easier to find multiple books by the same author author. Plus, when I'm looking for a book, it's much quicker to go to the right shelf instead of searching all the books.

So here's a glimpse of a small part of my library. (Keep in mind that you're only seeing three bookcases). I actually have ten bookcases in use, most of which are filled with children's books. The shelves are not completely full, on purpose. That's for all the books we have yet to discover!Bookcases

But really, it doesn't matter how you organize it. The most important thing is that you have a designated space to put the books you read to your children and that they're able to access it on their own. Size doesn't matter. When I was growing up, my mom kept one small shelf of picture books in my brother's closet. I can't tell you how exciting it was every time I went to that shelf and picked out a book for us to read together.

Do you organize your books? How so? Do you have a special place set aside for children's books that your kids can access? Is it in their bedroom? The living room? Or someplace else. I'd love to see your children's bookshelves. Please e-mail me at If I get enough pictures, I'll showcase all of your bookshelves next week!


Daisy writes...

Wow - thanks so much for posting these at high enough resolution we can pore over your lovely book selections! Such fun!

Sarah N. writes...

I love seeing how other people set up their bookshelves! We have two (short, 3-shelf) bookcases in my daughters' room (ages 2.5 and 6) as well as several book bins and one shelf for kids books in the living room. We desperately need more shelf space for children's books but I'm trying to hold off until we get bunk beds which will happen soon. We have board books on the bottom shelf. Picture books on two shelves above it. The other shelf has non-fiction on the bottom, then easy readers and short chapter books, then longer chapter books. We also have bins of field guides, Wild Animal Baby magazines, and tiny-sized board books.

Pam writes...

I've been thinking lately that I need an old-fashioned Library - a devoted room in my house - for all of my books and the kids' books. Too bad I don't have an extra room to spare. Can I make one of the kids sleep in the living room?

Webdoyenne writes...

Geez...I'm a librarian, but I don't have OCD like this. Somehow, I managed to raise two young men who are avid readers without resorting to biblio-regimentation.

Susan writes...

Years ago when my sons were young i read about organizing books for the youngest in crates or bins so they can flip through them easily to recognize the pictures, etc. Plus they were easier for their small, chubby fingers to put away.

It worked great!

Otherwise - I'd ask those who read them how they want them organized.

Robin writes...

Love your shelves! I have similar arrangements (easy readers together, Newbery shelf, Caldecott shelf) but I'm continually rearranging. I like to keep books in my children's rooms, so the Newbery shelf is in my oldest child's room, and the easy readers and most picture books are in the younger boys room. They don't all fit -- so there are scatterings in my room, my "office" and also downstairs, because we need books on hand for impromptu reading in the family room. So I have semi-organization but its comprised by the scatteredness. That changes too -- my middle son now goes into his older brother's room for books, so I'm moving Roald Dahl, early Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary to his room, and moving more older, close to YA books to the oldest child's room. The one thing you have clearly shown me is that I need more shelves . . . b/c mine are always full to the brim. Plus books stacked in the closet . . .

Erin writes...

I love your bookshelves! I enjoyed being able to see what books you have in your collection. I myself, the mother of a book-loving 6 yr old girl, am in love with books myself. We have just moved and the only thing left to do is set up my bookcase. I need a day to do it, because I organize them all the time. My daughter has so many books and no bookcase. Her organization is my next project. I was so excited to see that somebody else takes pleasure in organizing books! Thanks so much.

September writes...

Thanks for sharing.
We own many of the same books :) I have three boys, 14, 8, and 6.
They all love to read.
I organize them much the same as you do (well, I did once when we moved in), with the exception of separating the award winners. I don't quite understand the point of that, and it would disrupt some of my system.

The question is, how do you KEEP it organized short of constantly doing it yourself? The shelves with the younger boys books is jumbled from their use. My older boy has his own bookshelf now, as well as sharing the shelving in the living room with the regular collection.

Brenda writes...

Oh man am I jealous of all those books! How lucky you and your kids are!

suzan writes...

I am a self-confessed bibliophile. I live with my books, constantly making stacks of the ones I'm reading at the moment and displaying them with other furniture about the room. I only house three general stack areas: ARTS, SEAFARING & EVERYTHING ELSE. My book collection is a decorating element in every room we co-habitate.
My children always had their own book shelf in their own room that housed both book elements and other object d'art elements for display.
At school, I've arranged low, long book shelves with one standing tall bookshelf for display of children's books with great, illustrated covers/sleeves and related artifacts that go with that theme...for example: FLOTSAM is on display with a collection of shells, clay sea creatures, etc. Also within and around this 'global' collection of subjects and arts I have prints, bark-cloth, molas, wooden & clay houses, plants and other colorful art to bring interest and beauty to the area~

Lisa writes...

How fun! I have 9 and 13 year old boys, and I'm constantly rotating their books from oldest down to youngest, and youngest to a younger cousin. They each have their own 3 shelf bookshelves. I have a very small bookshelf that can hang on a wall, and holds about 15-20 of our favorite board books. It can hang on the wall, but right now it sits on the floor. Even my 13 year old likes to pull a few out to re-read now and then.

Cindy writes...

Wow. I thought we had a lot of books! Impressive.
Our system is a bit similar. I have the board books down low, and a big shelf of readers. Then there is a giant pit full of oversized books I don't know what to do with. All the books in the kids' room are left to their own devices. It's all about serendipity up there.
I am a non-practicing holder of an MLS. I was a wrangler of web data. Now I am a child wrangler.
Thanks for the post!

I am so proud of your beautiful library! I grew up in a house with books in every room, incorporated into the decor. My father just passed away last month and left us a 12 room house of wonderful books and recordings. In high school and college,I never had to use the public library! His was organized in sections, alphebetically and included commentary and translations. To his last day, he could tell us exactly where to go for anything we wanted or needed. My sister has been cataloging the books for the last few years now and is not done. My job was to maintain the Amazon account and do the ordering based upon whatever reading my Dad was doing. He was a Great Books reader and that made him a much better father, physician, educator, mentor and friend. Never lose books in your life or thse of your children. Always find a way to acquire,organize and read them, and yes, gift them to others, even in a box to donate. Brava!

Shep writes...

When I was a kid we lived in a rural area and didn't get much TV. What a Blessing! But a bigger blessing is that my mom worked in a book factory. She could bring home 20 books every two weeks - 25 cents for hardcover, a dime for softcover. When I got a summer job there, I'd use up my allocation and hers too.

When my wife & I moved into a new house and put up sufficient bookshelves in the den to hold our shared book collection, I decided to make major sections by topic, but mix fiction & nonfiction together. For example, the travel / geography section is arranged by longitute, and you might find Michener's 'South Pacific' next to Thor Heyerdahl's 'Kon Tiki', and then maybe Robert Hughes' 'Fatal Shore'. In the history section (The largest by far), Bios of Patton, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, are mixed with 'The Longest Day' and a collection of Bill Maudlin's cartoons.

Now to arrange the rest in SOME orderly fashion.

Kristen writes...

Thank you for sharing. We always had a lot of books in my home growing up. In the hall outside my room my parents had an old glass fronted bookcase and I can remember as a kid laying in bed and dreaming of the day I would read them!

suzanne writes...

I ran across your ideas while looking for ways to organize and/or store our 2 year olds books. I am very happy to see that we are not the only family who has many bookshelves full of books (we have 8 right now although 1 is full of textbooks that we use for reference). Our 2 year old has 2 to himself and they are literally packed. I was toying with the idea of going from a 3 shelf to a 5 shelf in the family room which is where the majority of his books are. Top shelf is nonfiction; he is obsessed with books about different cities, states, countries etc., as well as history type books about Native Americans, Volcanic eruptions, Earthquakes...kind of weird for a toddler but also right in the daily mix are the Clifford, Curious George, Growing Vegetable Soup and so on.
The middle shelf is soft covered story books and the bottom shelf is 2 rows deep of board books. I also have a cute basket that holds holiday books for the season. The rest of the holiday books are stored on the 2 shelf case in his bedroom along with the hardcover storybooks. I also have a small collection of "nostalgia" type childrens books which are some of the beloved books from my childhood along with old versions of the classics (right now his favorite is an old fashioned version of the 3 little pigs which graphically shows the straw and stick houses being blown to smithereens). I also have about 30 or so golden books, some old ad some new, which is double rowed on the 2 shelf case. Seriously... we can always find another book that we love, do you think that it is crazy that we need to keep adding shelving units? Many friends keep telling me to purge, that he doesn't need so many books but even his board books he just loves. I am torn between having a showpiece living room and one that is comfortable for my toddler to be himself in; that means books everywhere.

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