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Bibliophiles Anonymous

Prompted by a post by autopope (friends-locked), a poll about book storage:

Poll #1021506 Bibliophiles Anonymous

How many books do you own?

Less than 500
More than 8000

Do you have:

more books than shelves?
more shelves than books?

How do you store your books?

Free-standing shelves (IKEA Billy, etc)
Wall-mounted shelves (spur shelving, etc)
A mixture of the above
A collection of mismatched cardboard boxes

How are the books in your library organised?

Alphabetically by author
Alphabetically by title
Alphabetically by publisher
By genre
By date of publication
By date of acquisition
By size
By some combination of the above that I will describe in a comment
By some other means that I will describe in a comment
They aren't organised

Are your books catalogued?

Yes, I have an electronic catalogue
Yes, I have a non-electronic catalogue (card file, etc)
No, it's all in my head
No, I have no idea what books I have

If you have a catalogue, is it comprehensive?

Yes, every book I own is in the catalogue
No, I'm not dedicated enough to maintain the catalogue
No, I'm not sad enough to maintain the catalogue

Do you keep records of who you have lent books to?

No, I'm too lazy
No, I'm too trusting
No, I don't lend out the Precious Things
No, I need to lose books through natural wastage so that I can buy more
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On the book lending I am both too lazy and too trusting; plus I always think I'll remember which I never do.

On the distinct lack of books, I tend to recycle away my pulp fiction/beach reading and only keep stuff I really like and/or is special, so the total books I have owned is many many many multiples of what I bother keeping. Still being in rented accommodation and having moved recently revealed a ruthless streak in me about culling a lot of stuff I didn't really need (books, clothes, computers, all sorts).

We file fiction alphabetically by author; that's kept downstairs, with separate sections for drama and poetry. Travel is also downstairs, alphabetical by author. Recipe books and most writing about food that includes recipes are between the dining area and the kitchen, filed with the most useful/frequently used most readily to hand and otherwise by cuisine.

We file history and current affairs chronologically (although with separate mini-sections at the end for military history and for the sort of alternate history that is not fiction and thus probably calls itself counterfactual); that's in the smaller study.

We file literary criticism and other writing-about-writing alphabetically by author, although with a separate section for sf criticism; that's in the larger study along with the sf magazines. Also in the larger study is the other non-fiction (sciences and arts), which we file by sub-genre and haven't yet properly organised it within those sections.

Reference (organised in a way I can't quite describe) is on the landing between the two studies. Humour and collections of journalism (also sufficiently few that they are arranged by brain pattern and general connectivity) are in the spare bedroom along with the children's books (alphabetical by author) that aren't swept up by general fiction; the fanzine library (alphabetical by title) is off that.

The unread books that we really want to read next are kept in the main bedroom. The book catalogue includes information about what we have read, but not where things are stored. This occasionally leads to hunting and swearing, but mostly works.

We only just have more shelves than books, but still have a few places in the house where we can fit more shelves. Eventually it may become a problem. I hope that's all quite clear...


The books that I keep organized are the reference books (proofreading style guides, Penguin encyclopedia, an old Petit Larousse, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.) and the mass-market paperbacks. I keep the reference books on one particular shelf so I can find them quickly. The mass-market paperbacks are all of that one standard size, so I put them on one shelf in order to use space efficiently.

Everything else is packed in where it will fit or in a couple of stacks on the floor by my bed. Either I need another bookshelf or I need to host a book giveaway!

I used to have LOADS more but when I thought I might have to move I got rid of loads of paperbacks (all of which I now want to read again *sighs* even though I hadn't read them in years).

I should have a catalogue because I have been known to get the same book twice.

Catalogue is a work in progress

Library: general paperback fic by author
Bedroom: poetry, plays, biography, new acquisitions, criticism & reference on children's lit & children, myth & folktale - all randomly within the category
My study: children's fic, alphabetical by author; feminism, lit crit, witches, food studies, craft, dictionaries - all random
Landing: South East Asia incl fiction & non-fiction (except cookery) - random
His study: music, journalism, India (fic & non-fic), sf lit crit & reference, philosophy, architecture, travel guides, and stuff that has no accepted category but sense to us - all random
Lounge: Latin American by author; film & TV (except SE Asia), local history/geography, maps - random
Dining room: hardback general fiction by author
Kitchen: cookery & food writing

There are also some boxes and crates around that need shelving.

It's not entirely logical but it makes sense to us.

We have a nice selection of books in common according to LT. :)


Wow, yes - very eclectic! Really need to get the rest of the collection put on there, but my enthusiasm for the task waxes and wanes.

6 months in my new house, and I still haven't sorted out the books... my plans of putting in floor to ceiling shelving in the box room are still that, plans.

On the standalone shelving, there are double stacked books; elsewhere there are piles of books in a corner, books in bags and books in crates in the loft. No idea what's where, though. Of course, once this is done, they'd be organised alphabetically by author. I can't bear to throw things away, so the collection is rather large at the moment, if a little jumbled up.

I used to have more, but went through a pretty aggressive donate-to-charity-or-friends policy before our lodger moved in, to free up bookshelves and prepare for when we inevitably have to move. As physical artefacts I find books quite a pain, though. I'm quite a fan of electronic readers - I would get rid of practically every book I had if I could have the information replaced on a Sony Reader or Iliad type device.

Fortunately for my reader street cred (but unfortunately for the amount of packing I will get lumped with when she/I/we move), I have dear fides buying up academic texts and fantasy novels like they were going out of fashion.

My academic books are filed by subject area, and then alphabetically by author, but there is a degree of filing by size, due to some shelves being too small for the larger books. A small selection of my military history books are similarly filed. My SF/fantasy is out on shelves, arranged by author, and then by date of publication within that (though series are grouped together, and tv tie-ins get a separate shelf). Comics collections are filed by the title of the main series. Music, railways, and other fiction are still in boxes upstairs, but they are slowly being grouped into subject area boxes.

Kate does her own thing with her boxes.

As lamentables describes - although this almost makes it sound as if there is some order. We used an Access database for the books but are moving over to LibraryThing (but don't have all books yet catalogued on either).

Sorted by genre is a broad term. It means I can point to different walls in the library, a medium sized room in its own right, and say there's the RPG's, there's the Graphic Novels, etc.

Alphabetically by author, but only for fiction, and not multi-author anthologies. Those are separate, as are non-fiction, which is gradually being sorted by subject. Cookbooks and food reference are downstairs in the kitchen. Most of it is on LibraryThing, with the nonfiction going in last (and slowly).

Had a big clear out when I moved house, and continue to have a 'steady state collection development policy' although it can be sad to part with books. Was drummed into me by my Mum that other people can be enjoying books if I'm not actively using them, hence I do give books away on a frequent basis. Occasionally I regret giving something away and have to re-acquire copy from second hand bookshops (now made much easier with Abebooks).

Books that are kept are vaguely grouped by genre and size plus I have a small bookcase next to my seat in the lounge to shelve all my 'on the go' books and dvds/videos. H only has about 3 shelves of books and he laughs at my attempts to group books saying that I'm 'too librariany'. But it is a small price to pay for being able to find things.

Am very pleased to be reunited with my books after a year in a flat. The flat was dangerously close to Nottingham Waterstones so acquired lots of new books during that time but it is still nice to have my old books back.


you professional you ! :)

A format fiction paperbacks in one room, double stacked, alphabetically by author. Other fiction in another room, alphabetically by author. Graphic novels and similar alphabetically by author. Non-fiction is mostly Dewey Decimal, but really needs tidying up, except for A-format, which is in a big stack next to the shelves.

The use of radio buttons in your penultimate question means that one can't choose not to answer it (it may be non-applicable) once one has selected an option (and, pedantically, the HTML spec says that browsers should select an option automatically if there's no default).

You are Nick Lamb and I claim my five pounds.

(alternatively, you are Ian Hickson and I claim my five pounds)

(narenek made me come and answer this because it made him laugh to think about my answers.)

Strictly speaking, not all the books in my library are catalogued, but it's not because I'm too lazy to maintain it, it's because they're in boxes I can't physically get to. Radio buttons make this poll difficult - the books that are shelved are on a combination of bookcases and shelves, but there is also a small collection of cardboard boxes. I have the majority organised but it's a system that relies on my brain rather than external observation (e.g. hardback Pratchetts had a shelf to themselves in the hallway (see icon) but paperback Pratchetts lived upstairs with the paperback and hardback Tom Holts; this mystified visitors for some reason). Since I'm in the process of moving my entire library the organization has collapsed a little but I still know where to find everything, more or less.

The main SFF run is filed alpha by author, the kids books are in two sets by size and within that alpha by author. The picture books are in too heavy use for sorting - there is a loose sort by size and type (board books versus soft) but that's it. The non-SF or movie/TV based books are mostly off on their own and filed in no real order apart from books that belong together being together. And then of course there's the pile of unfiled books waiting for the main shelves to have a reshuffle so we can fit them in...

What a coincidence, I just bought enough shelves for my new flat so that I can take the books out of boxes from the move (those that haven't already escaped) and sort them out properly.

Genres are just as useless in literature as they are in music. So I don't even try to have 'fiction' (says who?) vs 'non-fiction' (ditto) categorisation. Instead I split them into reference vs bedtime. Books that I would actually read straight through are kept separately from those I'd pull off the shelf and flip through looking for something. Occasionally books shift from one category to another, or lean precariously across the gap, I take "The Diamond Age" off the shelf to check how old the protagonist is when she first gets the book, and an hour later I'm reading about Dinosaur's story of how he became the last of his kind, a story I already know by heart.

Reference works...
"Alice in Wonderland"
an illustrated & annotated Good News Bible
"The C Programming language"

Bedtime reading...
"Why I hate Saturn"
"The Mythical Man Month"
"Dr Bloodmoney"

Obviously libraries can't use this system because people's ideas of what fits into what category would vary, although this doesn't seem to have stopped them with their existing genres. There are probably several reasons why so few of Stanisław Lem's works* had been taken out for 5-10 years from the Central library. Obviously being down in the stacks doesn't help today, but most likely they'd previously languished in "fiction" a category which is the kiss of death to speculative authors whose fans are sifting through the Star Wars books in the Science Fiction genre ghetto on the other side of the library. Out of everything he wrote in English, the only books on Southampton's open shelves these days are movie-jacket versions of Solaris and his literary criticism.

* In English, the ones available in their original language have benefited from a significantly increased audience in recent years, but those are of no interest to me, it's hard enough to keep up with his thinking in English translation, my few words of Polish wouldn't serve well enough to know what Imaginary Magnitude is even about in Polish.

Realities of book ownership say that size is a factor, large books not only need more space, they also threaten to hide or crush their smaller brethren, particularly pamphlets. So that has to override my other ideas on how to store books. Also I'm not obsessed enough to stick strictly to any rules, the whole pattern makes sense, but individual instances may deviate.

Bah, "everything he wrote in English" implies Lem wrote these works in English and should be "everything he wrote, in English" or more clearly "everything he wrote that's been translated into English".

When you say new flat, do you mean the one with Kev, or have you moved again?

Books are on different sets of shelves by genre and then by author for fiction and topic for non-fiction. Except most of non-fiction needs sorting at the moment.

G has setup Delicious Library and scanned in all of SF&F. I need to do the rest because most of the rest is a) mine and b) predates barcodes. Hopefully I'll get some time this summer.

Those in Delicious are tracked when loaned. Otherwise I trust people to bring them back, unless they are particularly special ones where upon I don't lend. I don't lend to people who break spines and have no problem telling people so *&)

Actually, now I think about it, my books are organised to a very small degree, in that I have at least managed to separate them into "books about writing"/"books about computers"/"everything else". But since I moved the book shelves from the lounge to the hallway, pretty much scrambling the library while I did it because I didn't have much time, they've been generally hopelessly disorganised.

It's just was well I've got Delicious Library (and regular uploads to my LibraryThing catalogue) to make cataloguing easy -- at least I know that a book is somewhere on the shelves before I start looking...

Arrangement question clarification:
The fiction books are filed downstairs in two lots: paperbacks and small trades that will fit in the same shelves, arranged alphabetically by author and the hardbacks/large trades, also alphabetical by author.
The sf magazines are in chronological order (duh!).
Spinoffery (mainly Doctor Who books) are separate, in chronological order. Anthologies also separate, grouped where possible by series, but frankly a bit of a mess at the moment!
Non-fiction upstairs in the computer garrett, pretty much in no particular order (though biography/autobiography are grouped together).
We also have two book cases of unread books. We tend to swap the order around on these so that different books catch our eyes. They tend to be either in order of date bought (earliest first) or alphabetical by author.

I use BookCat to record the books: it has good functionality, is fairly customisable and it allows me to record the contents of short story collections and magazines (yes, I am that obsessive!) I've also got a LibraryThing account which has probably 75% of the books on it. Completing it is in progress!

we're finally slowly merging the fiction collections and deduplicating (surprisingly little overlap). there are bookshelves I've made from the wall outside the bedroom down through every empty wall and room in the house to the kitchen, along with Ivar and Billy in the spare room and kitchen. There are several unread bookcases, cookery in the kitchen and 'big books' in the halls, with mixed reference, comics, BD and other in the spare room. Separate hardback and trade bookcases in the front room. paperbacks run alphabetically down the house until we start again at A for my books - all alphabetical; after the Great Radiator Incident Simon's books are only alphabetical up to L. I have an Excel spreadsheet, sadly out of date, he has LibraryThing and neither of us have a full catalogue so we buy far too many duplicates... I keep nearly everything but discard any book I don't like or don't ever want to re-read (one in 30 or more). Simon can explain what he keeps...

Non-fiction (also plays and poetry) is in the living room, arranged by genre. The living room is completely shelved (we couldn't fit any more in here if we tried). The hallways are also completely shelved, and most of the fiction is there, though some spill over into our bedrooms. I'm not quite sure how we file them but somehow we usually know how to find things, and we try to keep authors together. It seems to be that it gets more skiffy as you get closer to the bathroom and more literary as you get closer to the living room!

What my father reads when is entirely random, but I keep a 'to read' pile in the living room. There's currently only four books in it but it's been known to hit the ceiling.

We use Billy and Leksvik shelves as well as our tallboy which is next to the bed. Books are sorted by size and genre and we're quite fortunate that we don't have books that are statistically much bigger than the rest in that genre.

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