I’m a book-a-holic and live in a regular-sized house, so books get tucked here, there and everywhere. Naturally, when one of my children asked a question about the bottom of the ocean, I wanted to show them that wonderful book with the great picture of the ocean floor . . . but where is that book? By the time I’ve dug through this shelf and the cabinet and this drawer, they’ve lost interest.
After hearing a wonderful church leader’s talk about having a library in his childhood home, I started looking at my homeschooling area with an eye for building a library. There is seldom any extra space, but I started looking at our rooms with the hope for a way to fit in some shelves that could serve as our library. I finally settled on an area and with some rearranging and ingenuity, we created a “sort of” book shelf. Actually, I was so over-eager that we stacked honey buckets from our food storage with old boards laid across until they were high enough to be dangerous. Although it could only accommodate a portion of our books, it gave me a taste of a homeschool library, and now I was hopeful for the real thing. Time to build a family library!
We began shopping for shelving units. I found that a finished oak shelf unit, 6 feet high and 4 feet wide cost anywhere from $180 to $300! That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Besides, that space was way too small to accommodate my dream. After more shopping and comparing, we finally settled on buying 8 foot by 1 foot boards from a lumber store. These boards were composition board on the inside, but were coated with a white plastic laminate surface, and the edge of them was rounded smoothly. The cost for lumber for a built-in shelf unit that measured 8 feet long and was floor to ceiling was under $60. Most lumber stores will even make the cuts for you, reducing the labor even further. Generally the first few cuts are free, and any other cuts are 50¢ each. It may be worth it to save the time if you aren’t a handyman-type.
The unit wasn’t too hard to put together. Because the boards were already finished and did not require sanding, painting, etc.; the work was cut to a minimum. My husband Rick chose screws rather than nails, thinking it would make the unit sturdier. He also screwed it into the wall to make it safe.
Once you get your bookshelf area set up, have a “treasure hunt” with the kids by gathering all the books in the house. I weeded out as many books as I could (be ruthless). I could barely wait for it to be finished! I dragged boxes of books from every place I had stashed them for years and covered the floor with them. I pulled them from cupboards and cabinets and closets and desktops. Just when I had an enormous book heap on the family room floor, my in-laws arrived from out of state . . . So much for making a good impression of homeschooling!
I decided to arrange my books in subject order. I took a length of masking tape and applied it to the shelf edge, writing the subject neatly in permanent marker on the tape. I ended up with: World History, American History, Geography, Science, Health, Math, English, Life Skills, Children’s storybooks, Readers, Art, Music and Educational Magazines.
Our “History” section begins with Ancient History books: nonfiction, textbooks, documents, literature and good fiction reading that is set in the time period of ancient history. Putting the good reading books in their historical setting makes them very handy to read along with history studies. My “History” shelves continue through Middle Ages, Modern Times, US Constitution and Government, and Freedom Documents along with wonderful children’s fiction set in the time period.
Then come the “Science” shelves, divided into the 4 fields of science: Biology (including Human Body and anatomy books), Physical Science, Chemistry and Earth Science. Nature magazines and DVDs go here too.
The “English” section begins with reference books, and includes books on how to write poetry as well as books of poems, spelling books, grammar books, my favorite Vocabulary Cartoons books, as well as collections of literature that cover many time periods (and thus cannot be put in the “History” section). I also have a section for great reading books not set in any historical period. Art books have a place, as do foreign language, and other subjects.
Keep a bottom shelf open for your library books. When the library books have a place that they “live” at your house, it is much easier to keep track of them. (Beats hunting for them under the couch.)
What is so marvelous about organizing your home library is that everything is so available and easy to find! I love it! Now when one of my children talks about volcanoes, it is a cinch to just cruise over to the “Science” section and see all the pertinent books just at my fingertips: easy-to-find and use! And the children can easily access what they need as well. An unexpected result of organizing our family library, is that it helped me see at a glance which areas of our educational resources were lacking. I can see that I probably don’t need one more Art book, but we are seriously in need of Science books!
I began to wonder why I hadn’t organized in this way several years ago. Moving, and never having enough shelf space had hindered progress, but it makes such an enormous difference that it is well worth any effort to create your library! It also meant that I now had a “place” for every type of book to be put away. Educational magazines now belonged somewhere, rather than just on an end table or in a magazine rack.
Naturally, in the process of putting all those books on our library shelves, I encountered numerous books that I hadn’t been able to part with, but hadn’t really found all that delightful either. Setting them right up there next to their kin of the same subject made it easy to see that they were no longer useful. You only need a few USA geography books to do the trick. Any more just takes space and creates educational clutter. Choose the best one or two and sort the rest out. It takes discerning eye to glean out the extra stuff, but it gives your library punch. Only the best. Donate the rest.
I do save some old quaint books just because they are so old that they come from another era. One example is a Home Economics textbook I have from the 1940’s. It actually has chapters on what to do when a baby cries, how to iron a shirt, and how to make a bed! I also had to save those “Run, Dick, run!” readers that marked the ruination of phonics in America. I have used them to explain to mothers why their children can’t learn to read easily in the public school system. These old treasures don’t go on my shelves according to subject. They are really kept just because of their antiquity, in a spot of their own.
Once I got my library organized, I found that I didn’t need to make so many trips to the library. I also didn’t buy quite as many books. It made homeschooling so much easier. When we were doing an art project, it was so simple to just go to the shelf and look through a few art books to come up with lots of ideas.
May I recommend: