How Do You Shelve Your Books When Patrons Are Not An Issue?

Bondi Beach, NSW - Ikea's Billy promotion

I was having a look through some old Bookshop Blogs and found this one bookstore-shelving and it got me to thinking about the storage system I use at home.

I don’t have a B&M store. My shop is web-based so I don’t need to display my books. I also don’t need to worry too much about leaving an aisle between any stacks so my customers can wander. I only need to ensure I can navigate easily without being crushed by teetering towers of paperbacks.

This, though, appears to be my downfall.

If I had a shop that needed to be fitted out, then I would not have to keep trying to work in my totally unorganised back room. If I had to worry about the teetering towers falling on unsuspecting customers (instead of my dog) I would have bought some wonderful shelving system a year ago when I seriously started this venture. If I had to concern myself with store aesthetics I would have put in more lighting, instead of working from the corner of the room, while the only light globe remains smack bang in the centre of the ceiling, powered by one of those environmentally friendly, but really useless for seeing in the dark, fluorescent globes.

I seem to have allowed myself to become content with books stacked on the floor, or the dining table, in boxes under the bed, in the laundry basket – or just piled into big archive boxes with a label on the side saying “A”, A being either the first, or last name of the author, or the beginning of the title, or the genre the book has been written in!

As I am now adding books furiously to my website (in anticipation of it reopening sometime this year) I am finding that perhaps my storage system needs some re-evaluating.

I have made some trips out to our local IKEA store and bought 6 Billy Bookcases, which are now housed in my backroom. Unfortunately they contain all of my personal books, and I don’t seem to have bought enough for them!

I’m wondering if perhaps I should be looking at some metal framed shelving systems that are sold at our local hardware store. They have a very big weight baring capacity per shelf. The shelves would never bow – being metal. They are wider than the average bookcase so I would be able to access the shelves from both sides, unlike the Billy which is has a backing board.

Or I could get some big plastic boxes and fill them up, with a slightly better labelling system than I am currently using. I’m tending towards the shelving system. A much easier way to find the stock, and it would be a heap easier to check stock levels this way too.

I was wondering what other non-store based bookshops use for their book storage? Also, what does everyone think of the shelving systems I’ve suggested? Any thoughts either way?

I am usually an organised person, but my book system seems to be growing all by itself. If I don’t do something about it soon – I fear my backroom may start resembling a book version of “The Day of the Triffads”.

13 thoughts on “How Do You Shelve Your Books When Patrons Are Not An Issue?”

  1. A few weeks ago I visited another online seller who uses those metal shelves in her single car garage for book storage. There was a small aisle, and the books were accessible from both sides. It seemed a perfect set-up to me. I’d go with the metal is aesthetics are not an issue, Amanda.

    Sadly for me, my own online books are stored in challopw cardboard boxes under my bed due to space restrictions. They are organised by genre with their spines face up.

    I really wish I had more storage and often eye off my children’s cubby house……

  2. I use Organized Living’s Libra bookshelves for my book collection of about 500 books. Each shelve can hold up to 250 lbs and when I weighed a shelf with all college books it was only 40 lbs.

    Oh my-I checked their website and its no longer on there…glad I purchased mine when I did! It was pretty pricy but worth it!

  3. Prior to opening my B&M 3 years ago we were an online only seller. We put the books in boxes or bins and then they were numbered based on my sku numbers that Homebase (What we used at the time) assigned. The boxes were then put on gorilla racks. We were able to put 18 boxes on each rack and average 40 books in each box.

  4. I do not have a B&M store, just sell on the internet. I store my books in the garage on book shelves. My husband has built me wooden bookcases, accessed from both sides that are 6 shelves high each side. Also I have bookcases along the wall of the garage, also 6 shelves high.

    I have labeled each bookcase a letter of the alphabet ie A and then each shelf a number – ie A01 = A bookcase shelf 1. I tighten each shelf periodically and then add new books at the end of the shelf. This way I only have to tighten one shelf at a time, not a whole bookcase.

    I have 13,000 books now and I fine this system works well for me. You can see a photo of one of my bookcases here – .

  5. I have both a store and a large number of books that are online only and kept in storage. The majority of the books in storage are on purpose-built shelves, but the larger ones we bought the heavy duty equipment shelves from the hardware store. They’re open on all sides so have easy access. We’re currently stacking the oversize and oddly shaped books on them, but you could easily stack boxes on them instead.

    Can’t find an EXACT match for the ones I bought, offhand, but they look similar to these:

    So about $40 vs $100. And they’re freestanding and don’t have to be anchored to a wall.

    For our actual overstock where we keep duplicates copies of stock for the store, the core is 8′ metal library shelves which we got on the cheap when our library remodeled. I think we paid $25 at the time. They were eager to get them out of the way to start the construction, thus the crazy low price.

    We’ve picked up several other mismatched bookcases used in the storage area at business closeouts or from places remodelling for anywhere from “free, you wrestle it out of here” to around $25 a case. Nobody sees them but us, so it doesn’t matter that none of them match.

  6. I also use my garage but haven’t bought shelves. I have everything in boxes with each box labelled with a sequential number and I then have an Excel spreadsheet with the title of the book and the box it’s in. I currently use cardboard boxes I get from the shops and replace them when they start falling apart. I do have the whole stack covered from top to bottom in an extremely large sheet of plastic.

    • Probably more important than covering them is making sure they’re off the garage floor. Simply sitting on cement or concrete can transfer moisture. It may not even be that the floor gets wet so much as cold floor+ high humidity= condensation. Giving them an air gap prevents your boxes from getting damp.

      It also protects against small floods. The garage has flooded a couple times due to clogged drains on the road, so it jumped the curb and ran down the driveway. It’s not a lot of water, just enough to make puddles on the floor. But if we hadn’t had everything lifted 2″ off the floor, we’d have been tossing out huge piles of books.

      You can frequently find free pallets offered in the local newspaper or craigslist. One pallet will generally work for that while you decide on a more permanent system.

      • Ah, I hadn’t thought about contact with the garage floor. I do know I haven’t seen any problems with any of the books that far down but I won’t take any chances and will get some pallets as soon as. I also know that the worst storm we’ve had doesn’t get that far back. All the boxes are stored at the back of the garage with space for two cars (side by side) between the books and the door. Even that massive hailstorm we had a few weeks ago didn’t get anywhere near the books.

        Thanks for the tips. Always trying to improve things.

  7. I’m an online only seller. My book storage system started out with numerous plastic bins (with lids) stacked neatly and labeled for easy identification. At first everything worked smoothly, but as my inventory increased, the system became tiresome because, invariably, the book I needed to retrieve was always in the bin on the *bottom* of the stack. A good workout for my muscles, sure, but I could never get in, get out as quickly as I needed to. I started keeping an eye on the cheap bookshelves @ the local office boxstore–every once in a while they go for 50% off. I eventually bought 2, then 2 more, then 2 more . . . I have the shelves labeled by category and picking-shelving is a breeze.

  8. I use a system of metal shelves and boxes, each shelf is given a Letter and each box a number. I can store books on both sides and have about 26 boxes per shelf. The system works out great because I can stack my books in either a vertical or horizontal position in the boxes to maximize space. So when I get an order I have the location encoded in the SKU and it literally just takes a couple of seconds to find a book.

    And just a warning about the metal shelves! I had one fall on me once, they are not perfect and the legs can sometimes twist. I now bolt all of my metal shelves together to prevent this from happening again.

    My future plans are to start building my own shelves, if you go to your local lowes they usually have some cull lumber for sale. it’s usually a very big stack of wood for a very low price, but you need to be creative in building shelves because you may not get all the wood you need to build them all the same.

  9. Walking through the local Costco store, I had to get some carboard boxes. Then I saw the boxes the fruit comes in. They are about 2×3 feet and the depth of a paper back. The boxes are designed to be stacked, and quite high at that, with re-enforced sides, and small carboard clips that fit the box below.
    They fit 3-4 rows of paper backs, maybe 50 deep
    Ideal, and best of all, free.


  10. I really appreciate how the metal book shelves is design to protect books from any circumstances. The book shelves can also be a guide to properly place and locate the books according to its type and topic.

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