5 Tips for Cataloging, Storing, and Moving Your Book Collections

April 18, 2023

Whether you are in your forever-home or relocate every few years, managing a growing book collection can have its stresses. Perhaps you feel like you don’t have any extra space on your bookshelves, your e-reader is already at its storage limit, or there’s no rhyme or reason to how you sort your family book collection. Fear not! Below are five tips for finding a good system for cataloging, storing, and moving your book collections.

1. Figure Out How (and Why) You Are Accumulating Your Books

Before you can set about determining a system for your books, it is important to identify how the book collection is growing to begin with? Are you buying books faster than you can read them? Does your To-Be-Read (TBR) pile continue to grow every time a social media influencer mentions the latest author craze? Are you downloading audiobooks or electronic books from a subscription provider you are no longer using? Are you overbuying physical books that you keep adding to your child’s bedroom without a designated place for them to collect?

Address how the books are getting in and next dig deeper to figure out why you are accumulating so many books. (Are books from the used bookstore a weekly treat for your kids? Do you need to pause your Book-of-the-Month delivery?) Having lots of books isn’t a problem per se, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with figuring out best practices for keeping track of them, then taking a moment to consider how and why they are piling up is a smart first move.

2. Determine Your Book Rhythms

Now that you know why and how your book collection is growing, next it is time to consider your book and reading rhythms. Who in your household is reading the books? Where and when does the reading take place? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you decide if you want to keep, for example, all children’s books in children’s rooms and in a spot they can access them any time? Or do you have a special collection of professional books that you don’t really need right now, but you might need them some day, and therefore can relinquish shelf space for the time being? Will you keep reading materials in the bathrooms, cookbooks in the kitchen, a loaded up e-reader in your car to read waiting in the car-rider line, or an app on your phone with a queue a mile long of titles to listen to on your commute, your run, or in the background while you are doing housework? No matter the place or the format, make sure your book rhythms are serving you. The phrase “a place for everything and everything in its place,” should be true of your books too!

3. Select Your Shelving and Storage

You know how and why your book collection is growing. You have examined when and where you are consuming your books. Now it’s time to scrutinize the best solutions for shelving, storing, or displaying your books. In this phase of book management, plan to mull over two major aspects: permanence and budget.

Is your current home a fairly stable and permanent residence? Or will your shelving and storage options need to be as portable as the books themselves for frequent moves? Bookshelves can run the gamut of cost from incredibly expensive built-in shelves all the way to build-it-yourself furniture that may or may not withstand heavier loads on shelves or frequent shuffling around. You might prefer non-standard options too! Some use mantle space, bar carts, hutches, windowsills, spice racks, vertical stacks, empty (unused) fireplaces, or molding ledges as popular choices. Get creative! Your book storage options are only as limited as your imagination. Book shelving can serve both form and function!

4. When It Comes to Cataloging, The Dewey Decimal System Isn’t Your Only Option

If you happen to read primarily on your e-reader, most programs like Kindle, Nook, or Kobo have cataloging features that allow users to create “collections” for their books. For physical books, despite what your elementary school librarian may have taught you, you can shelve your books in any way that makes you happy. In recent years, The Home Edit popularized sorting books by color or in rainbow order. Others prefer to organize by room in the house, by person in the family, by genre, by author, by subject, or by frequency of use. There is no right or wrong way to establish your preferred organization of your books. The best way is simply the way that makes the most sense to you and is both a practical and convenient method for you to maintain.

5. A Word on Moving With Your Books
If you do find yourself in a situation with a move on the horizon, a few easy suggestions will keep your precious books safe and ready for use. If you are moving yourself or are using professional movers, one mistake to avoid is to not overpack book boxes. Using smaller boxes (preferably ones with handles) will allow for easy transport of books. It’s easy to overfill a book box making it incredibly heavy to move.

Next, a move is a good time to potentially weed through your book collection and if possible, donate or pass along books you no longer need or want. Finally, for many, familiar books are like good friends. Whether it is a United Through Reading storytime recording of a favorite book, a favorite sacred text, a family heirloom, or even a fiction book that offers an escape from the stress of moving, keeping a treasured book nearby with easy access can be a needed comfort for every member of the family.

Need some extra reading inspiration? Check out United Through Reading’s Ready for Reading podcast, downloadable Literacy Guides for All Ages, a printable Reading Log, or a Read Aloud Activity Calendar.

Our Literacy Tips are presented by Reader’s Digest Foundation.