If you love books as much as we do, chances are you’ve got a growing collection. But if you don’t have a designated space for all those books, you might find paperbacks popping up between your couch cushions and classic editions collecting dust under your bed.
And while that kind of chaos isn’t uncommon for avid readers or writers, it’s not the most convenient system when you need to hunt down a particular book.
Plus, you love your books so much, so why not honor them with the neat,
How to Set Up a Home Library
Follow these 7 steps to set up your own personal library (read: happy place).
1. Find a Dedicated Space
While of course we’d all love to have a Gatsby-sized personal library in our homes, sometimes dedicating an entire room to your books isn’t an option.
If you are lucky enough to have a spare room in your home—whether it’s completely empty, or currently serving as an office, studio, gym, or storage space—you may want to consider setting up your personal library there.
But if space is limited (or, if you simply prefer a different corner in your home), don’t feel like you need an entire designated room to enjoy a personal library. For example, you can easily create an elegant and cozy reading nook in the corner of your living room by setting up a sturdy bookshelf or two and adding throwing down some comfy reading pillows.
If you intend on actually reading in the same area as your library, there are some factors you may want to consider when choosing the best spot:
- Lighting: Lighting is an important consideration for your library, whether you want to do your reading there or just want to create a certain ambience. Do you want a space flooded by natural light? In that case, you should opt for a room with large windows that gets lots of sun. Prefer a moody lair lit by candlelight? Then you can choose a darker room and decorate with deep hues and warm lamps or candles.
- Comfort: Even if your space is limited, you’ll still want to opt for an area that’s comfortable enough to spend some time in (i.e., not your coat closet). Choose a spot in your home that allows you space to sit comfortably if you want to read there, or at least take and replace books without knocking things over.
- Use by others: If you live with others, including roommates or housemates, you should check with them before claiming a common space for your personal library (and offer to share that area with them, of course).
2. Check Out Your Storage Options
The primary function of any library is to serve as a storage place for your beloved books. So of course you’ll want to find them a suitable home that allows you quick and easy access whenever you get the urge to read.
The most traditional way to store books is in a bookshelf or bookcase. To help you find an affordable match for your book needs, we’ve compiled a list of the best cheap bookshelves, which also includes some fun DIY options.
Alternatively, you can also store your books without a bookcase, using bookends, baskets, or windowsills to house your books. Have fun and creative in finding what works best for you and the space available.
3. Make It Cozy
This is your personal library, so make it a space that feels like home to you. Whether that means bringing in a comfy reading chair, adding a scented candle, or hanging one of your favorite paintings above your bookcase, find ways to personalize this area and make it inviting.
(Even if you plan on using the space for storage and not reading, you can still take steps to make this corner aesthetically pleasing—your books deserve a nice home, after all!)
4. Stock Up with Books That Matter to You
Let’s cut to the exciting stuff—the actual contents of your personal library!
Because your books will likely be displayed on shelves, you may be tempted to stock them with titles you think will impress your visitors.
But keeping your shelves filled with books that please others probably won’t leave you with a lot of satisfaction. So instead of thinking about what looks “good” on your shelves, or worrying about what your selection says about you, keep it simple by filling your library with books that are meaningful to you.
This means adding books that have been lifelong favorites, had an influence on you, or made it to your “must read next” list. No need to include Dante’s Divine Comedy if you’d rather poke your own eyes out than read 14-century poetry.
5. Donate or Sell What You Don’t Want or Need
If you come across some books that you’re no longer interested in, you can clear out some space and make room for more books you love by finding a suitable home for those older reads.
To do so, you have several options:
There are plenty of ways to make a little extra cash for your used books, and even more options for donating, from school libraries to prisons and local thrift shops. So if you can, try to avoid adding your books to a landfill!
Once you’ve found a place for the books you no longer want, you’ll have more space to grow your collection with new favorites.
6. Create a System
If you’re serious about keeping a a personal home library (and I’m guessing you are, if you’ve made if this far), then consider an effective organization system essential. (Books arranged haphazardly are for amateurs, anyway!)
To find the titles you want quickly and easily, you’ll need to develop a system, which can be based on any of the following:
- Author name
- Year of publication
Heck, you could even arrange your books by the color of their covers, or in a hierarchy of your favorites to least favorites. It’s really up to you—the important thing is that you know where your books are and don’t lost track of what you’ve got.
There are also personal library tracking apps that can help you see exactly which books you have in your library, down to the edition. Granted, this option makes most sense if you’ve got a really extensive home library, or if you frequently lend books to friends.
For a more low-tech option, you can create your own catalog, using either a spreadsheet or a regular notebook, to track your inventory.
7. Share the Love
What good are shelves and shelves of books if most of them are collecting dust each year?
If you’re fortunate to have amassed a hefty collection, share some of that wealth with friends and family by treating your library like, well, a library!
If you’ve got a great self-help book that could really change your friend’s life, loan it to them. While reading is a very personal experience, it also has the power to connect people—so be generous with your collection and share the love.
How Do You Catalog a Personal Library?
First, let’s make clear that cataloguing your library isn’t a requirement—but if you have a lot of books, frequently lend them out, or are among the more detail-oriented of us, you may find it very useful (and even satisfying to see your entire collection in one place).
It allows you to create tags and build collections, log your reading dates, add notes about where and when you got the book, and keep track of books you’ve lent out.
Then, you’ll need a barcode scanner. Luckily, there are plenty of apps for that, too.
Then, use your scanner and start scanning the ISBNs of all your books. If your book doesn’t have a visible barcode, you may have to enter it manually later.
Once all your books are scanned and uploaded into your program of choice, you’re ready to start tracking and organizing your collection. Wondering what to read next? Just start browsing your personal library—there are probably plenty of hidden treasures you forgot you even had!
How Many Books Are in a Personal Library?
There’s no minimum requirement for setting up a personal library. As long as you’ve got more than one book, you can build your library oasis however and wherever you want!
Whether your collection spans a windowsill or takes up four walls of bookcases, your personal library is yours to customize, enjoy, and share with others.
Do you have a home library? Tell us how you’ve set it up in the comments below!