There's a discussion over on the 4real boards about organizing books. I mentioned our book bin system and there was some interest in seeing what it looked like. So I took a few pictures. I've had some technical difficulties with typepad lately, so I'm really hoping this works...
Now, keep in mind that I am pressed for space. I really need another bookcase. My books would look much neater if I could expand a bit. The books are divided (mostly) by subject (science, history), and then subdivided into bins by topic (oceans, Civil War). The white bins hold science books, the red bins history, the wicker baskets novels, both historical and otherwise.
I first went to this system when I had 5 kids under the age of 10 and nobody seemed to be able to shelve books properly. The skinny little paperback picture books all got lost. The hardbacks warped from being shoved in every which way. Since the twins were young, I did not have time to police the shelves all the time to make sure there were only history books on the history shelves, or that a picture book hadn't been jammed in between them so that its cover was bent and ripped. I had attempted to identify where books should be returned by labeling them with colored stickers. But my then toddler ripped all the stickers off the day after I put them on.
The book bins seemed to solve these problems pretty well. If a child wants a book about insects, I am pretty certain that I can just go to the insect bin and find what I'm looking for, rather than squinting down a row of science books to find the spine of a skinny book about monarchs, which may or may not have been returned to the right place. I can also take the whole bin out for the child to browse through. The bins work best for the younger kids if they're not as full. When they're very full they tend to be heavy, which is a con of this system I am still trying to work out.
I don't have all the books in bins, however. Historical fiction is mostly in baskets, divided by time period, but when I got all the books for our medieval studies this year, I didn't have a basket I could use. So these novels are shelved like normal books. You can see that using a basket to hold the other books expands the available space on the shelf, though.
Baskets and/or bins are also nearly impossible to fit on the squeezy top shelves, so I tend to shelve middle/upper grade fiction and biographies there traditionally. It's too high for the little ones, and my organizational scheme bears that in mind. I put books for them down low; books for taller people up higher. I don't shelve chapter book biographies with their time period... and to be honest, I can't really remember why I decided on this scheme. I think they just took up too much space in the bin. Bins really work best for picture books and other thinnish hardbacks.
I find that the bins are much better for keeping the paperback picture books accessible. This shelf holds some of our big hardback storybooks, but the bin (which I just made up and which isn't labeled, sorry) is for paperback fairy tales, most of them picture books.
These aren't the only bookshelves for kids' books. I also have a cheap bookshelf in the entryway which holds history and geography reference books (and is in terrible danger of collapsing, because it was never meant to take the weight of those books); another cheap bookcase in the living room that holds bins of geography books (divided by continent) and baskets of religion books (both of which really need a sort); and a built-in of science reference books, including two baskets of field guides. Gareth and Katydid both have bookcases in their rooms, and I keep the bulk of the seasonal and fiction picture books in plastic drawers in a closet so I can rotate them. They were a little overwhelming when they were all out, and then I ran out of space.
I tried looking for other posts that have to do with the book bins, as I know I've posted a few along the way, but in doing so I've discovered that I am really bad at categorization. If I actually do manage to find any, I'll come back and add the links for reference.