« (I want to be a) Librarian - Youtube video - Haunted Love, Dunedin NZ | Main | What color (or hue) is that book? »

19 April 2007



Hey I know that green sociology book! ;-)

Not really but that is exactly how I describe a book and exactly why my bookshelves are sorted by color.


All of us librarians have had the "shelve by color" fantasy at one time or another. I never remember the outside of books but it's as good a way as any to find new and interesting things to read.

Carl Collins

Did anyone see the Adobe Bookstore project?
Documented visually, here

the effect is stunning. I'm gonna do the same thing to my own personal book collection and see how it looks. Of course in a real library like Clay's example books of certain subjects could be re-bound in a given color (green = sociology) of course then is that really all that different than a good textual classification?


Sure, color is a helpful memory aid. You could organize by color within a broader hierarchy and that could be very useful. Overall, I'm not so big on hierarchical finding systems, but this is one case where keeping some kind of institutionalized standard really does make information more accessible.

Much as people seem to like the idea of organizing books by color, and I'm sure it's fine for most home libraries or relatively small collections, it seems like a completely disastrous proposition for a university library. When you have 8 million volumes, knowing that the graph theory book that I wish I hadn't resold in undergrad was bound in green is simply not enough to go on.

Even looking for a "math textbook" with green binding is pretty hopeless. And even if green binding were a suitable point of reference, for those of us with the gift of sight (and color sight at that), memory of the particular shade of green has doubtless changed over time.

Further, any rebinding of the books would totally screw this concept up. Maybe not going forward--if a hierarchical standard like that suggested by Carl were implemented, which would be somewhat contradictory to the concept in the first place--but certainly going backward. My calculus book had a black cover, but I bet a university shelf copy would have been rebound (possibly even in-house) with a more durable binding. Different editions of a textbook may have differently-colored bindings, which would create problems for those of us who used the black calculus textbook that may now be bound in chartreuse for all I know. The university would doubtless retain a current chartreuse volume over the black one from (eep!) 10 years ago.

I love the idea for other contexts, like my own bookshelves (and even then within subject categories) but I would be seriously concerned if a large research university pursued this sort of organization scheme. Actually, it would prevent me from attending or applying to an institution; if that's the best way they could manage their collection, it probably isn't the place for me!

The comments to this entry are closed.

About Superpatron

  • Superpatron

    For library patrons who love their libraries, who take advantage of everything they have to offer, and are always on the lookout for great ideas from libraries around the world. From Edward Vielmetti, [email protected] .

    Follow me on Mastodon as @[email protected]