Taming the Bookshelf Chaos

Because many homeschoolers are fellow bibliophiles, I must share my newfound delight with Library Thing–a cheap and easy way to catalog books online.

With this online Thing, I can organize a list of all our literature by era, enabling me to easily gather books to put on our coffee table that correspond to our studies.

I can create a “lending library” and let friends browse my shelves from their own computers. There is no reason that another homeschool mom at church should duplicate children’s books from the WWII era if she only needs them for a month or two–unless of course she just desires to own her own copies.

I can prevent hazy memory and duplicate purchases.  Often I’m fuzzy about which books are actually on our shelves and which are just familiar friends.  Even when I check the bookshelves three times, it is easy to miss a slim volume, cleverly camouflaged among other books.

The Thing allows me to assign “tags” to each book, so that I can organize them by subject and era, or any other identifiers I choose.   I gave mine “tags” that reflect years and units in Tapestry of Grace.  You could do the same to “key” your books to Sonlight, Story of The World, or whatever works with curriculum.  Library Thing is flexible, so you can assign whatever tags make sense to you.

How much does it cost?  Once again, Library Thing is flexible.  The first 200 books are free.  Beyond that you could pay $10 a year or $25 for a lifetime membership.  There are a few other options too, but I’ll let you explore for yourself.

How long does it take to enter the books? That too depends on how you’ll be using this catalog.  If you have mostly recent books with ISBN numbers, it is likely you could enter over 100 books an hour. For rare or older books you might need to enter some information manually. Time investment is also affected by how much of a perfectionist you want to be. I’m neurotic about wanting the cover shown in my virtual library to be the same edition as the copy on my physical bookshelves. This enables me to better find the books. (It is also helpful when a child asks, “Can I read that Egypt book?” I can pull up all our books on Egypt in Library thing and let the child point to the book they are remembering. More often than not they will recognize the cover.)

It does take some time, yet I’m finding it to be oddly satisfying, and even fun!

Is it a tool or a toy?   I don’t know, but I like it.

(This article was also published in my Taming The Chaos column on the HSB Company Blog)

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