Building & Organizing My Home Library
The pandemic offered an opportunity to return to a hobby that kept me throughout my childhood and youth- recreational reading. I loved going to the library and checking out a stack of books and I have fond memories and deep appreciation for public libraries. As much as I loved to read, today, as an attorney, the time reserved for “reading for fun” has been harder to implement. The change of pace and a home and office move presented a chance to reorganize my books and reacquaint myself with my library.
Designing the Library
I started on my idea to reinvent and reinvigorate the home library in December 2020. At that time, I had about 400 titles in the library and wanted to expand and diversify. To start, I knew I needed to add a set of bookcases. I had a standard five shelf bookcase and a five shelf barristers’ bookshelf but many of my books had been stored on the floor in my previous reading nook. The first three additional bookcases added were Billy bookcases from IKEA. With six shelves each, I knew I’d have plenty of room to grow into the space. In addition to the bookcases, I invested in about 15 sets of bookends. I am a thrift shopper, and eBay and Facebook Marketplace were two great sources of inspiration. The bookends would be functional and fashionable.
In addition to a place for book storage and display, I wanted to make the library a comfortable and inviting space. To create such an environment, I was intentional about good lighting, flexible seating, and creating places to curl up. To keep track of key insights, I also added a stack of bookmarks, pencils, and journals for notetaking.
To complete the library design, I incorporated plants, floor pillows, low tables, blankets, and two audio systems. The audio assets include a Sonos Wi-Fi speaker for soft jazz and audiobooks and a record player for reading by the fireplace. As a final soft touch, readers can also enjoy the Buddha Board and sand Zen Garden.
The Inspiration for the Library
Prior to undertaking this library refresh project, I discovered an estate library auction being sold in Boston. I loved that the library was sizeable and diverse. The topics ranged from politics, children’s books, historical collections, poetry, autobiographies and more. The shelf-by-shelf review was helpful in framing my final vision. I wanted a library with depth, breath, and diversity. At that time my library was narrow in focus and not set up in a way that was interactive.
An integral part of the redesign was exploring titles that serve as a reflection of my professional subject matter expertise and of the topics that I wanted to learn more about. It was important to have diverse representation in all facets, from authors to subjects. I worked to intentionally include books written by African American authors, women, and books written in Spanish.
In developing this foundation, I also wanted to ensure this representation and engagement could include children. I am a proud godmother, and post-pandemic, I expect to host my godkids as often as I can. Today, the library includes over 50 children’s books that focus on entrepreneurship, history, and poetry. They include Black, Asian, Latinx, and Native American characters and titles in Spanish.
Organizing the Collection
I’ve found much advice online about the best ways to organize one’s person library. You can arrange by height, by alphabet, by color, the controversial backwards method to show the pages, or by the very traditional library method, the Dewey Decimal System.
Most of the books in our home are found in the library, but now that the collection has expanded, I am shifting some collections to the areas where they will be used. The legal reference books are in my office for ease of access, and the books on dreams, relationships, essential oils, and working out are in the owner’s suite.
In the main library, the books are organized in sets and by genres. Those that are included in vintage collections are stored together, and those in slipcover are scattered within the library in groups.
The topics in my library range from:
· 30 Second Series · Academic Journals · African American Art & Photography (coffee table books) · Autobiographies · Books in Spanish · Books on Religion & Christianity · Children’s Books · Communication · Company Profiles & Success Stories · Cookbooks · Dictionaries in Multiple Languages + Law Dictionary · Economics · Education · Emotional Intelligence · Entrepreneurship and Startups · Fiction · Food Businesses · Genealogy · General Business · General Reference · Government and Politics · Innovation · Inspiration · International Business · Leadership · Legal Reference · Management · Marketing/Social Media · Meditation/Relaxation · Money and Investing · Mystery · Newspapers and Magazines · Philanthropy · Place Based/Region Specific · Poetry · Psychology · Public Speaking · Question and Quote Books · Readers Digest World’s Best Reading Series · Sales · Success · Time Life Library of Art Series · Time Life Library of Gardening Series · Tiny Homes and Cabins · Wealth and Succession Planning · Women-Focused · Workout/Physical health
Lastly, I wanted to find a way to activate the digital library that I’ve developed on Audible. To do this, there is a stand that holds an Amazon Fire HD which allows for easy access to Audible. Incorporating audio books in with the traditional, more analog library expands the depth beyond the physical footprint. Having this incorporation makes it easier to play The Wall Street Journal Digest each morning and sample titles and authors.
Expanding & Adding Titles
Today, there are just over 1,000 titles in my home library. The collection includes books from my childhood, gifts from friends and colleagues, and those I’ve acquired as a professional.
As I’ve started intentionally growing my library, I look for books that will add to the subject matters present in the library or sets that can serve as a good base for a new topic.
My favorite sources of books offer new and used options. I find collections through Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, thriftbooks, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and through auction sites. I buy books individually, but enjoy buying “book lots” as well. Lastly, my budget for books ranges from $3 per book up to $50 per title for a collector’s item.
Many of my colleagues have also published books, and I make sure to buy a copy and get it signed if I can.
My next expansion areas include buying translations of my favorite business and legal books in Spanish.
Opening to the Public
This project helped highlight the difficulties of loaning books without a proper system. There were about 25 titles that I recalled but could not find, including books I knew I had loaned to friends or colleagues and never got back.
As we begin to open the home and office back up to family and friends, I am exploring apps and systems to help track book loans. Some of the recommendations I’ve seen include Goodreads, Library Thing, and Audible.
Having a home library means there will never be a dull moment. One of the best parts is the freedom from the pressure to finish each book that I start. I engage with the books for reference, casual browsing, for a weekend of getting lost in a book, and as a way to keep learning and expanding my own perspectives. I have bookmarks all throughout the shelves and often go back to books I’ve started.
Curating a diverse and well-rounded home library will help you continue on your quest for knowledge, continuing education and professional development.
Drop a comment with your best tips to organize your home library and the apps you use to catalog and track your book loans.