The Page Turner

November 2003
Boys and Reading


Where to House Your Library

Start with a List

Organizing a Small Library

Organizing a Medium-Size Library

Organizing a Larger Library

What about the Dewey Decimal System?

More Help

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How Can We Organize Our Program Library?

    by Lori Ragsdale

So, you are ready to turn your collection of books into a library. You have 10, 50, 100, or 1,000 books, videos, magazines, and tapes. Where do you begin? Everything is probably jumbled in a big box or stored on shelves. Organization is the key to a well-functioning library of any size. This month, we'll focus on physical organization—where to put your library and how to arrange the books. In the next issue, I'll tell you about systems for keeping track of your books.

Where to House Your Library

The first thing to do is decide where your library will be housed. An ideal setting for a small library is in a section of a room with bookshelves of some kind. Furniture, such as tables, chairs, and sofas, for use while reading should ideally be close to the shelves. To get an idea of what kinds of furniture work well in a library, go to www.demco.com and click on "Furniture." Even if you do not have funds to purchase new furniture, you can get ideas about how to use the furniture you do have.

Start with a List

Now matter how large or small your library, start by listing all your items. You can divide the list into types of materials: books, magazines, videos, CDs, and so on. This list will be helpful when you purchase new items; you won't waste precious funds duplicating items that are already in your collection. Also, the list will be helpful as you expand the library and plan an organization system—more on that in the next issue of the Page Turner.

Organizing a Small Library

For a small library of, say, 25 to 50 items, organize materials according to type. Put hardback books on one shelf, paperbacks on another. Videos can go on another, magazines on another, and tapes perhaps in a basket. This type of organization is simple and gives library users practice in finding and putting away materials of various types.

Organizing a Medium-Size Library

For a medium-size library—perhaps 100 to 200 items—you need a more elaborate organization method, combined with the division by type described above, to help users find materials quickly. A child shouldn't have to sift through fifty paperback books to find one about plants. So you might post signs on the shelves for different kinds of materials, using words, pictures, or both. Put a picture of a plant and the word "nature" on the shelf for nature books. A sign reading "magazines" with a picture of a magazine shows where magazines are stored, and so on.

Organizing a Larger Library

As your library grows beyond 200 items, you can keep the methods outlined above and further categorize within each section. You might, for instance, divide the paperback fiction books into a general reading level: picture books, easy readers, chapter books and other Transitional readers, young adult (or Independent stage) novels. Then alphabetize by author within each section.

For nonfiction books, continue to categorize by subject but, as your collection grows to include more subjects, use colored stickers or picture stickers to distinguish them. Each subject gets a different sticker.

For instance, you might choose a green sticker for nature books. Or maybe you have a lot of nature books and want to have green stickers for plants and brown stickers for animals. Put a green sticker on the spine of each plant book. On the shelf for the plant books, put another green sticker. On the sign for the wall, put a green sticker with the word "plants" and a brown sticker with the word "animals"—accompanied by pictures, if you like. You could use orange for sports, yellow for biography, and so on. If you run out of colors, double up: two yellow stickers for picture books and two blues for easy readers. Buy more stickers than you need right away in order to allow for growth in your library.

What about the Dewey Decimal System?

You may be wondering why I have not suggested the use of the Dewey Decimal System for your library. Dewey is a complicated system that requires a professional library cataloger. Afterschool programs are likely to be better served by one of the more informal organizational methods suggested above. Click here to read more about the Dewey Decimal system.

More Help

Organizing a library takes time, but it is worth the effort. Your materials will be easy to find, so the children will be more inclined to use the library. Remember, your Robert Bowne Foundation consultants are available to help you, so please contact Anne Lawrence with your questions.

 

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