When you’ve collected lots of books, it helps to have a system for organizing them — if you can’t find what you’re looking for, what’s the use of having it? I often sincerely wonder how people who live in very large houses find things — who keeps track of all the *stuff* that goes into furnishing large spaces?

In organizing my books I chose not to reinvent the wheel.  Someone had already done the groundwork of sorting-subjects, so why not use an existing system?  As for which system, I chose the one most familiar to me, the Dewey Decimal system.  I’ve read that it isn’t as detailed as the Library of Congress system, but as I’m unfamiliar with that system (no college for you, little girl!), I stuck with what I know.

The entire house isn’t rigorously organized as a library — I like to know where things are, but I’m not a rigid purist by any means.  Still, I have them all sorted: mysteries are in the bedroom, writing books are in the writing room, nonfiction is in the three large bookshelves in the basement, general fiction is in the entryway, children’s fiction is in the spare bedroom, cookbooks are near the kitchen, religious studies are under the knickknacks (no connection intended, it’s just where there was room), cartoon books are in the bathroom, and the Agatha Christie collection has a place of honor alongside the Junior Deluxe Editions children’s classics my parents collected when I was a kid.

Thanks to Mr. Dewey, I have a general idea of where to shelve books, but every once in a while a book stumps me.  Years ago a friend gave me a Dewey Decimal Classification book, but working through it to figure out where a book belongs when the classification isn’t obvious can take some time because, in a microwave/Internet/text messaging world, divining library classification entrails is something to be undertaken on a grey, slushy winter day with a cup of cocoa, and that isn’t today.

The book that flummoxed me this morning was CID: Army Detectives in Peace and War.  The press that published it didn’t add the classification numbers I usually rely on (thank you, modern publishers!).  This led to an Internet search — long story short, good old OPAC has it listed at the Ft. Leonard Wood library.  I haven’t regularly used OPAC since we lived in Belgium, so that was a fun trip down memory lane.  I now have the book classified at 355.1, which will put it at the far left end of the shelf of writing books with their 800s numbers.

Sorting books may not be everyone’s cup of cocoa, but if you want to find what you’ve squirreled away, having the books organized is the way to go.

It also gives the kids something benign to share as their penance for having been born into this family.