Classification and Cataloging
“Classification refers to the system you use to organize your books and their contents; cataloging is the location of the book in the system…The main difference [between a home library and a publicly accessible library] is that your library must please only you, while public and academic libraries must please everybody” (141)
“You can create a library that is a map of your world.” (145)
“Home librarians have been known to do something that accurately resembles the amorphous nature of the world. It is, to the best of my knowledge, almost totally unknown in the world of the real library. Home librarians acquire more than one copy of a book, and then put the different copies in different places!” (146) (this works well when Charlotte’s Web is one child’s favorite, and then Grandma gives a copy to the other child for Christmas.)
As you evaluate your shelves, develop a list of classifications that could be used for sorting. Use broad categories; you can subdivide later. My collection, for example, consists of numerous meta-books (books about books), books about children’s books, fairy tales, classics, poetry, picture books, easy readers, and various forms of fiction. As you go through your stacks of books and determine their classification, make sure you keep a list of your subject headings so you can maintain consistency for searching and organizing purposes.
“Your system for organizing your library should allow you to change your mind frequently. Whether it be a computer program or pieces of paper in a file folder, you should choose tools that allow you to expand your ideas about your books.” (152)
“What information do you need to capture in your cataloging system?
“The basic bibliographic information includes title, author or editor, publisher, and the year the current edition was published or copyrighted. Home librarians often like to keep track of when and where they acquired a book, the price, and a personal annotation, which could include their opinions of the book or of the person who gave it to them.” (152)
“In any formal classification system, the most important category is the one marked “Other.” This is where you put your ambiguities, your one-of-a-kind items, your leftovers, and your painfully new ideas. Then, as you play with the data in this category, you will discover new relationships among the pieces of information, and if you don’t find an established category to put them in, you will create a new one.” (153)
Make sure everyone in the house has responsibility for his/her own library. Books ought to be where they will be easily used. Why would you keep cookbooks in the den? Each member of the family can learn to organize the books they want to have near to them for use. (Computer and reference books in the office, bedtime stories and favorite fiction in each child’s bedroom, et cetera.)
Cataloging Your Collection
Not readily searchable, but you can create a list with author, title, publisher, classification, binding, price, where purchased, shelf location, whether or not you’ve read it, and brief comments. Limited, but basic. Allows you to organize alphabetically, then by classification.
NYPL/Running Press Your Home Library software kit
For those who are committed, need lending records, and want to store more detail in a searchable database. Kit includes binder and handbook. Available through Running Press, NYPL, or Amazon.com. It was produced five years ago, so I think there are some improvements over the software, but the handbook by Kathy Coblentz (NYPL cataloger) is well-done.
This is my new personal favorite, as I have just completed classifying, cataloging, and processing the church library and intend to approach my own collection in the coming months. It’s a great site, and you can even order a “cat” scanner so you don’t have to manually input all those ISBNs. Tim Challies of “Discerning Reader” fame (see bibliography) uses LT and explains more thoroughly how it works.
Another site where you can organize and share your books with the world, though I have not yet thoroughly explored this one. Anyone care to comment?
Where to find information about most books:
Look at the copyright information on the back of the title page for cataloging data as supplied by the Library of Congress. You can also find subject headings which may be helpful in organizing; just make sure that whatever you use is consistent. If you can’t think of the right subject heading, by all means visit your library in person or online! Ask your librarian to show you how to find the appropriate subject heading in the online catalog.
What’s next? Possible classification schemes, if you want to be formal about it. Then we have to talk about further collection development…how to further manage your personal library.