How to Easily Maintain an In-Home Library

When you maintain an in-home library, you are creating a blanket of peace, comfort and security. Many folks have opted for the space-saving e-Readers, such as Kindle, Nook and connecting to an on-line library.  When you live in a small space, this can be an ideal way to get your reading fix without having to find a place to store the book.

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shelf filled with the Chronicles of Narnia series

According to The Bookshelf Ltd., printed books were 85.7% of the bookselling market in 2019. With the ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic, eBooks are definitely increasing in sales, but print still seem to be more popular.

No matter what format you prefer, books, regardless of the author, genre or title, serve so many purposes. We read for research, to learn a new craft, find recipes, or for fun and enjoyment.  I am willing to go out on a limb here and bet that most homemakers and homesteaders could supply their local library with complete sections of gardening, animal husbandry, cookbooks and more.

But there is just something about holding a book in your hand that makes reading so much more enjoyable. For one thing, there is the solid feel to the book. By placing your hands on the cover and pages, there seems to be a stronger connection – as if an invisible thread has connected your mind, your heart and your imagination with the words you are reading.

open old book sitting on a table

There is also the aroma of fresh paper and ink, or the dusty smell of older books. That sensory emotion has the ability to carry you from your favorite chair directly into the world the book is describing. Some writers are good enough that you can smell the fresh air they are describing, or the apple pie that was just baked.

Having all those books are delightful and are great reasons to maintain an in-home library. But have you ever tried to find a specific book, searched every nook and cranny of the house, and finally remembered you loaned it to a friend? Or were you certain you put it on your bedside table, only to find it in the kitchen on the shelf with the cookbooks?

If that’s the case, maybe it is time to get your books organized and maintain an in-home library. This is one of the best ways there is to go directly to the shelf and put your hand on the book you need!

shelves of books to help you learn how to maintain an in-home library

Location and Shelving Tips to Maintain an In-Home Library


The first thing you need to look at when you want to maintain an in-home library is where you plan to keep your books. Most of us have a space in a room where a shelf can be added. In some cases, such as in a living room or den, built in bookcases have been provided.

In my case, I have several places where I store my books. There is a ‘mystery’ room in the middle of the house. We think it must have originally been a dining room, as there is a built-in floor to ceiling, wall to wall cabinet that has shelving at the top, and cabinets on the bottom. I immediately claimed that room as the ‘Library’, as there is enough shelving space to store a small bookshop.

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Measure your space. It goes without saying to measure the width and the height, but you also need to measure the depth. Some bookcases are deeper than others (especially if you are using crates), and you don’t want them sticking out so far into the room that you have difficulty maneuvering around them.

Shelving, on the other hand, can be created with almost anything that is sturdy. If you are dealing with a small area or equally small budget, consider purchasing plastic crates. These can easily be turned on their sides and stacked. As you get more books, you can add more crates.

Another option is shelving. These come in heavy-duty wire, wood, wall-mounted or even the economical board and cinder block units.  But before you rush out and purchase shelves…

Books are heavy. Two or three paperbacks may not carry a heavy weight load, but a few hard backs can pack a lot of weight. Before you purchase shelving, take a look at how many books you need to store. The plastic, stackable units may be inexpensive, but they are rather flimsy, and have a tendency to sag.

white bookshelf filled with books and plants

The same goes with shelving that is made out of pressboard – or particle or wafer board. Basically, this is made out of wood shavings or even sawdust. The weight of books will eventually cause the boards to sag, and at some point, even break. If you use this type of bookcase, consider adding braces, if possible, with a 3-foot span.

If you have ever been in a dormitory, or moved into your first apartment, money was probably very tight. In order to make it stretch, you may have constructed shelving out of boards and cinder blocks. Provided you use blocks for every 3 to 4-foot span, this can be a very creative way to create shelving. Consider painting both the boards and blocks, and you can have a great bookshelf, as well as a conversation piece!

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For smaller spaces, you can also consider using a Baker’s rack. These are usually made of steel, are decorative, and can fit in a corner or in a small area. If you have a spare closet, consider adding shelves and turn it into a library!

My favorite shelving that I use to maintain my in-home library are the wire shelves. These come in different sizes and are sturdy enough to hold quite a few books without having to use bracing. They especially come in handy in the craft room. I can store a shelf or two of books, magazines, and storage boxes filled with craft supplies all in one location.

stack of craft books including books on spinning, weaving, and creating handmade books

Organizing your In-Home Library

When you maintain an in-home library, it doesn’t mean you have to go back to the Dewey Decimal System. The best way to organize your books is to first, group them into category. If you are trying to do research on the best way to do a no-dig garden, you immediately know to go straight to the gardening section.

You can also break each category down further – either by subject or author. If you have some books that are more general, such as the Encyclopedia of Country Living, you can start with a general section, and then graduate down to more specifics.

If you want it even more organized, you can then alphabetize by author. For my faith-based books, I do it this way, like for all my Max Lucado books. We frequently use his books for Bible study, and knowing exactly where they are comes in handy. But when you maintain an in-home library, location and organization is just the beginning.

gold book plate. Use these to help maintain an in-home library

Do You Know Where your Books are?

Do you ever loan your books out, and then weeks or months later start looking for it? I am frequently guilty of this. To keep me from ‘losing’ a book, I have a form in my Homemaking Manual that helps me keep track. It has a space for the date I loaned it, the title, author, and who I loaned it to. There is also a column to show if the books have been returned or not.

To help me maintain an in-home library, and to help those who have borrowed my books to know who they belong to, I designed book plates to place on the inside cover. It simply states ‘This Book Belongs To’, with a line underneath to write in my name. This has helped me not only keep track of my books, but helps to assure they come home again!

group of At Home in Mitford books bookended with a jar of red silk flowers

Don’t Have Enough Books (yet!) to Fill Shelves?

This is definitely not a problem. Just simply combine your books with other items. I keep my cookbooks in an old pie safe in the kitchen. It is also the same place I keep a few baking items, serving pieces and cocktail napkins and other small items.

Just use your imagination. Showcase your vintage medical containers, a favorite tea set or any other item you would like to display right by your books. And if they are heavy enough and non-fragile, you can easily use them as bookends!

Magazines also have a place in your in-home library. For those issues you want to keep, just stack them up neatly (and by issue) on one side of a shelf. This horizontal stack can add a bit of visual appeal to any bookshelf.

books an magazines on a shelf in an in-home library

Maintain an In-Home Library

Not only can you keep your home neater, but you can also find a book almost immediately. No more stacks of books all over the house or sliding into a big pile on the floor!  To help you out, go ahead and download this free Book Plate template. It has 6 plates, and you can print out as many as you need!

white cup filled with tea; open books of poetry

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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