Organization Tips

How To Organize a Bookshelf Like a Library

April 03, 2024

Reviewed by
Suze Dowling

How To Organize a Bookshelf Like a Library

In the world of home organization, few tasks carry the same satisfaction as arranging a bookshelf. Beyond functionality, a well-organized bookshelf can serve as a reflection of one's personality, interests, and even aspirations. 

Let’s get into the art of organizing a bookshelf, drawing inspiration from the meticulous systems employed by libraries. By adopting some of their principles, you can transform your bookshelf into a showcase of order and elegance while still maintaining a touch of personal charm.

What Is Library Organization?

Central to the organization of any library is the Dewey Decimal Classification system. Developed by Melvil Dewey in the late 19th century, this system assigns a unique numerical code to each book based on its subject matter. These codes are then used to shelve books in a logical and systematic manner, letting patrons easily locate specific titles within the library's collection.

Libraries typically categorize books into broad subject areas, such as history, literature, science, and art. Books are further subdivided into more specific topics or genres within each subject area. This hierarchical organization ensures that books with similar themes are grouped together, facilitating both browsing and research.

By adopting a similar approach to organizing your own bookshelf, you can create a sense of order and coherence within your collection. Rather than haphazardly arranging books based on size or color, consider categorizing them according to subject matter or genre. This makes locating specific titles easier and enhances your bookshelf's overall visual appeal.

How Can You Start Organizing Your Bookshelf?

Before starting the organization process, take some time to assess your book collection. Begin by gathering all your books in one central location, whether it's on the floor or a large table. 

As you survey your collection, consider the following questions:

  1. Which subjects or genres are most prevalent in your collection?
  2. Are there any books that no longer align with your interests or reading preferences?
  3. Do you have any duplicate copies of books?
  4. Are there any books that are damaged or in poor condition?

As you evaluate your collection, set aside any books that you no longer wish to keep. Consider donating them to a local library or charity organization or passing them along to friends and family members who may enjoy them.

How To Establish Categories Within Your Bookshelf

With your collection assessed, it's time to establish categories for organizing your bookshelf. Start by identifying broad subject areas or genres that encompass the majority of your books. 

Some common categories include:

  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • History
  • Biography
  • Science
  • Art and Photography
  • Travel
  • Poetry

Once you've determined your broad categories, consider whether any subcategories would be helpful for further organization. For example, within the fiction category, you may want to create subcategories for mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy. Similarly, within the non-fiction category, you could create subcategories for biography, history, science, and self-help.

By establishing clear categories and subcategories, you'll create a framework for organizing your bookshelf that is both logical and intuitive. This will make it easier to locate specific titles and ensure that your collection remains tidy and well-organized.

How To Arrange Your Books

Once you've established your categories and subcategories, it's time to arrange your books on the shelves. Consider the following tips for arranging books visually appealing and functionally.


Maintain consistency in how you arrange books within each category. Whether you choose to organize them alphabetically by author's last name or chronologically by publication date, consistency is key to creating a cohesive look.


Place frequently accessed books at eye level or within easy reach. Reserve higher or lower shelves for less frequently used books or decorative items.


Leave some space between books to prevent overcrowding and allow for easy removal. This also creates visual interest and prevents the shelves from looking cluttered.


Incorporate vertical and horizontal stacking to add visual interest to your bookshelf. Use bookends to support vertical stacks and prevent them from toppling over.

How Can You Utilize Organizational Tools?

In addition to arranging books, consider incorporating organizational tools to further enhance the functionality and aesthetics of your bookshelf. Here are some popular options to consider:

  • Bookends: Use decorative bookends to support vertical stacks of books and add visual interest to your bookshelf.
  • Baskets and Bins: Utilize baskets or bins to corral smaller items such as magazines, notebooks, or loose papers. Opt for transparent or open-top bins to ensure items remain visible and easily accessible.
  • Labels: Label shelves or bins to clearly indicate the contents of each section. This makes it easier to locate specific items and helps maintain organization over time.
  • Decorative Accents: Incorporate decorative accents such as plants, vases, or framed artwork to add personality and style to your bookshelf. Just be mindful not to overcrowd the space, as clutter can detract from the overall aesthetic.

By incorporating these organizational tools, you can create a well-organized and visually appealing bookshelf that showcases your book collection and reflects your personal style and preferences.  Want to simplify your office and boost productivity? Learn more here about decluttering, maximizing storage, and streamlining your workflow.

How To Maximize Space on Your Bookshelf

To make the most of your bookshelf space, consider the following strategies.

Vertical and Horizontal Arrangements

Experiment with both vertical and horizontal arrangements to maximize space utilization. Place taller books vertically and lay shorter books horizontally to fill gaps and create visual interest.

Adjustable Shelving

If your bookshelf has adjustable shelves, take advantage of this feature to customize the layout according to your needs. Adjust shelves to accommodate taller books or create additional space for decorative items.

Vertical Storage Solutions

You can maximize the height between your bookshelves with magazine holders or vertical organizers to store magazines, notebooks, or other slim items.

Grouping Similar Items

Group similar items together to streamline organization and maximize space. For example, place all cookbooks or travel guides together to create cohesive sections on your bookshelf.

How To Incorporate Personal Touches

While functionality is important, don't forget to infuse your bookshelf with personal touches to make it feel truly unique and reflective of your personality. 

Here are some ideas for adding personal flair to your bookshelf:

  • Decorative Accents: Incorporate decorative accents such as framed photos, artwork, or small sculptures to add visual interest and personality to your bookshelf.
  • Showcasing Collectibles: If you have any collectible items such as figurines, vintage books, or memorabilia, consider showcasing them on your bookshelf to highlight your interests and passions.
  • Personal Mementos: Display personal mementos such as souvenirs from travels, handmade gifts, or family heirlooms to add sentimental value to your bookshelf and make it feel more like home.

Incorporating these personal touches allows you to transform your bookshelf into a meaningful and visually appealing focal point in your home. Remember to have fun and experiment with different arrangements until you find a look that feels just right for you.

What Can You Do To Maintain an Organized Bookshelf?

Once you've organized your bookshelf to perfection, it's essential to maintain its organization over time. 

Here are some tips for keeping your bookshelf tidy and clutter-free.

Regular Dusting

Dust your bookshelf regularly to keep it looking clean and well-maintained. Use a soft cloth or duster to gently remove dust from books, shelves, and decorative items.

Reorganize as Needed

Periodically reassess your book collection and make adjustments to your organization scheme as needed. Remove books that are no longer of interest or relevance, and reorganize shelves to accommodate new additions.

Declutter Regularly

Take time to declutter your bookshelf on a regular basis. Remove any items that no longer serve a purpose or contribute to the overall aesthetic, and consider donating or selling them if appropriate.

Establish a Routine

Establish a routine for maintaining your bookshelf, whether it's weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Set aside dedicated time to dust, reorganize, and declutter, ensuring that your bookshelf stays in top condition.

The Takeaway

Organizing a bookshelf like a library is an opportunity to showcase your personal style and interests while maintaining order and coherence. By following the principles outlined in this guide and drawing inspiration from library organization systems, you can create a functional and visually appealing bookshelf.

Remember to assess your collection, establish clear categories, and arrange your books with care. Incorporate organizational tools and personal touches to maximize space and infuse your bookshelf with personality. With regular maintenance and attention to detail, you can enjoy a beautifully organized bookshelf that enhances the ambiance of your home for years to come.

Just as organizing a bookshelf can transform a space, Open Spaces offers products that empower you to curate a home that reflects your unique personality and preferences. Check out our best sellers today.


A Brief History of the Dewey Decimal Classification | Cambridge University Press

12 Clever Ways to Organize Your Book Collection | Clutter

Home Library Ideas - 10 Wonderful Ways to Enjoy a Book Collection | Homes & Gardens

45 Must-Know Tips for Styling Your Built-In Bookshelves | HGTV

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