How To Organize A Bookshelf Listeners and Librarian Emerita Kee Malesky weigh in on how to order your bookshelf. Malesky says it doesn't matter if they're in rainbow order or old-fashioned Dewey Decimal — if you can find the books, it works. According to one listeners, coming up with the right system is like giving birth — painful but satisfying.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Chances are many of us will own a few more books in a few days. But if you're getting books as gifts, it's probably because friends have already seen them in your place. And even if the books you have are carefully stored and catalogued, where do you put the new ones? We asked a few people how they organize their book collections.

TYLER TANKERSLY: My name is Tyler Tankersly in Kansas City. In third grade, I was made to memorize the order of the presidents. It was a song - I remember it. I can still sing it: (Singing) George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson...and so that has stuck with me. And so when I buy a presidential biography, I am singing...(Singing) James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor...that song to myself as I place it on the shelf. (Singing) Grover Cleveland...All of my presidential biographies - and I have about 20 now - (Singing) McKinley...they are all in the order that the presidents served. (Singing) Abraham Lincoln....


KAREN ALEA FORD: It's Karen Alea Ford from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I thought I wanted to get creative when the Pinterest craze started. There was a few in rainbow order and I was taken with this. I just thought, oh, look at that rainbow of words. And the other day someone wanted to borrow "Of Mice and Men," and I was saying, you know, is it white? Is it white? No, it's ecru. You know, and I was just going through and I could never find "Of Mice and Men." I've done that for three books now, and I'm so frustrated that I think why did I do this?


FORD: And it's sort of like having a child and you go through labor, and you're, like, oh my gosh, I'm not going to do that again. You have to wait till you forget that experience before you do it again. And that's what I'm trying to do before I reorganize it. I have to get rid of that pain before I reorganize it into something that makes sense.


SIMON: It's clear that we need professional advice. And there's no one we turn to more for wise advice than our librarian emerita Kee Malesky, who joins us in our studios. Kee, thanks so much for being with us.

KEE MALESKY, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Is there a right way to store books so that you can find them?

MALESKY: Not in your home. There's no library SWAT police that's going to show up and tell you you have misarranged your books and you must use a different system. Obviously, it's whatever works for you. If you have only a few books, you probably don't need a system. If you have thousands, you might want to use Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress, or even arranging by size or color.

SIMON: Well, I wanted to follow up on that, 'cause Karen and her library of many colored books - now, that's the sort of thing where I can imagine some book lovers hearing that and thinking that makes no sense.

MALESKY: If she can find the book she wants, then it's a workable system.

SIMON: Can I ask how you do it?

MALESKY: No, don't. I'm probably not the only librarian in the world who's much more organized on the job than at home. And we do have lots and lots of books. We have one room designated as the library, which is just shelves of books and chairs and a desk. But unfortunately, there are also stacks of books on the floor all over the house.

SIMON: Kee, this is a rough week for us, and for our listeners, who are soon going to lose the benefit of having your advice and precision, which is audible in each and every segment on this program.

MALESKY: Yes, I'm sort of retiring. I decided to do so while I'm still sort of young enough to enjoy it. It's the hardest decision I've ever made in my life, because I love this job and I love almost all the people that we work with.


SIMON: Yeah.

MALESKY: But it just seems like the right time.

SIMON: You know, thanks to you, there are millions of people who don't know what a doofus I am about pronunciations, but they're going to learn very soon, aren't they?

MALESKY: You still make a lot of mistakes even when we practice, we write it out phonetically. But, you know, it's the excitement of the moment.

SIMON: Kee Ma- Malesky, is that it?

MALESKY: What is that?

SIMON: Kee, Kee Malusky, Kee Malesky, our librarian emerita. Thanks so much.

MALESKY: Thank you, Scott. It's been fun.

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