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Organize Your Next Library Trip

  • Kym Wright Contributing Writer
  • Published Jun 13, 2005
Organize Your Next Library Trip

No matter which method you use for teaching your children, trips to the library just seem to come built into the program. Finding biographies, reading about science, listening to books on tape, and making friends of the author of some favorites - the library boasts it all.

Like everything else, we can organize our lists, and use our time wisely at the library — or we can meander and hope we find something to fit. With eight children, and a penchant for fitting the most into life I can — you can appreciate that I would search for some way to become more organized, use the library time even more efficiently, and have a good record of our readings at the end of the year.

So, how do we obtain library organization? Come along and see!

First, I go online with the library. With just a modem and a computer, I can access our library's computerized card catalog and find any book in our local library, and books I can borrow through interlibrary loan. Knowing the topics of books we need for our studies, I open up a text editor, or Excel on one side of my computer screen, and size the library catalog image to fill the other side of the screen, so I can move back and forth between the two screens. When I find a book we would like to borrow, I move to the text screen and begin making my list. There is more information given on the library screen than I need, so I copy and paste, deleting any unnecessary information.

I need the following categories: Author, Title, Location, and Call Number. For future reference, and for the next children of ours who come of age for these particular books and study, I add another category: Age – to remind me at what age a child would most be interested in this book. I also have a column titled "F/N/B" which stands for "fiction/nonfiction/biography," which is for my own personal information, since I like the children to read a variety of book genres, not just the pleasurable ones or fiction. The last category is "Order," which I check if the book needs to be ordered from another library well ahead of our need. Some library online systems have the capacity to let you request books online, while others don't. Check with your librarian to verify.

When I have located all of the books I need, I finish my online session, and concentrate on my list. At this point I usually have so many books listed that it would take me a while of walking back and forth between the shelves to find them. So, I take a few more minutes to organize my list.

First, I separate the books according to location: where will I find them in the library? Is it an adult book? Will I find it in the children's section? My categories here are very simple: Adult, Young Adult, Children, Video, Book on Tape (or CD), or Oversized. You can tell all of this information by the call number. Every library labels its books with their own system, but from the ones I've visited, the most common call number references are:

  • A meaning a book for adults
  • YA is a young adult book and is usually housed separately from the adult and children's section
  • J is for juvenile, and is a book in the children's section
  • V, AV, or VID are usual references for videos
  • CD, AC, or Aud Cass are typical for CD or audio cassettes
  • Q or O stands for "Queen" or "Oversized" books, which are taller than normal and are usually housed on lower shelves or on special shelves

So, on my computer, I arrange the books according to these locations. Going a step further, I look at the call number to see if they are a fiction book, nonfiction or a biography. Fiction books have no numbers in their "call number," only letters. They are listed by the author's last name. A book by Louisa May Alcott would be listed under Alcott. It might also be listed as "J Fic Alcott" which stands for Juvenile, Fiction and the author's last name. These get arranged alphabetically on my list.

Biographies are listed with a "B" in the call number for adults, and "JB" for children's biographies. Then their number also has the name of the person the book is about. A child's biography on Benjamin Franklin would be listed as "JB Franklin." If I have several biographies, I list them alphabetically, so I can move in one direction through that section.

Nonfiction books have numbers. So, for one last organizational arranging, I sort the nonfiction books numerically. Call numbers start at 000 and can go to 999. Each set of 100 numbers has a category, which can be further broken down. See the list below for further explanation. I organize the books from lowest number to highest. This simple step saves me many steps at the library, so I can move through the library shelves systematically and not have to retrace my steps.

When I have the list of books ready, I print it, and put it under the proper heading in my library notebook. It's a handy 3-ring notebook I've put together to make our library trips even more organized and successful. But, that's a topic for another article.


  • 000-099 General Works (Codes & Ciphers, Journalism, Ships, Trains)
  • 100-199 Philosophy (Superstitions, Supernatural)
  • 200-299 Religion (Bible Stories, Mythology)
  • 300-399 Social Sciences (Conservations, Careers, Government, Customs, Economics, Holidays, Etiquette, Folklore)
  • 400-499 Language (Dictionaries, Grammar, Phonics, Foreign Language, Sign Language)
  • 500-599 Pure Sciences (Experiments, Math, Plants, Rocks & Minerals, Animals, Outer Space, Weather)
  • 600-699 Technology: Applied Science (Human Body, Drugs, Tools, Inventions, Machines, Sewing, Cooking, Gardening)
  • 700-799 The Arts (Drawing, Hobbies, Games, Puppetry, Music, Sports, Dance, Theatre)
  • 800-899 Literature & Rhetoric (Poetry, Plays, Riddles, Short Stories)
  • 900-999 General Geography, History and Related Disciplines (Geography, Travel, Biography, History)

Each of these categories is found in a different place in the library. If you become familiar with these, you should be able to find your way around quite well. The letters in brackets will usually appear in the computerized card catalog and on the jacket of the resource. Explanations and examples follow:

FICTION have no numbers, and are listed by the author's last name.

  • [FIC] Adult Fiction: Emma by Jane Austen is listed: [FIC] Austen
  • [YA] Young Adult books are a separate category, but are usually found near the children's section. These are mainly for teens. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson is listed: [YA] Paterson
  • [J] FIC Juvenile Fiction Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is listed: [J] Sewell
  • [BR] Beginning Reader I Love Cats by Catherine Matthais is listed: [BR] Matthais
  • [E] Easy is the portion of books for younger non-readers and read-alouds. They are usually grouped together in a children's section on lower shelves. Island Boy by Barbara Cooney is listed: [E] Cooney.

NONFICTION are informational resources listed with a Dewey Decimal reference number and (usually) the first three letters of the author's name.

  • Adult is the section of adult books. Quilting by Averil Colby is listed: 746.46 Col
  • [J] Juvenile books are usually found in a separate section, near the Easy books. These are written for a younger audience than adults, on a level from beginning reader to high school. Seabirds by Paul Sterry is listed: [J] 598.4 Ste

BIOGRAPHY books are about famous people. They have no reference numbers, but are listed by the last name of the book's subject.

  • [B] Biography books on the adult level. An adult biography of Benjamin Franklin is listed: [B] Franklin
  • [JB] Juvenile Biography are written on a child's level. A juvenile biography of Benjamin Franklin is listed: [JB] Franklin


  • [R] Reference books cannot be checked out, but can be used only in the library
  • [Q] Oversized are very large books
  • [LP] Large Print is printed in large type for those with sight problems
  • [Mys] Mystery & Science Fiction may have skull and crossbones on spine and may also be listed under [FIC]
  • Video-recording may be in computer listing as VC or V or VIDEO
  • Audio Cassette may be listed as SOUNDRECORDING or AUD CAS or AC

*This list of library categories is applicable to most libraries. Please ask for your librarian's assistance to find these separate sections in your library.


Mark & Kym Wright have eight children, have homeschooled since the mid-80s, and have graduated two students from their homeschool. Mark is in computer technology and Kym writes the Learn & Do unit studies. The early morning hours find her sewing, quilting, painting, or writing. You can visit her website at: or contact her at

This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit