Unpacking Your Library

Unpacking Your Library

This post republishes a piece which was originally commissioned by myVLF and published on their blog as ‘Unpacking Your Library: 10 Top Tips to Organise Your Bookshelves’, myVLF, 3 September 2020.

Whether working, furloughed or simply unable to go out and socialise as much as usual, Covid-19 has given many of us more time at home. Many people have been unpacking their libraries (to use Walter Benjamin’s phrase), building reading nooks and reorganising their shelves. There’s a great tradition of writing to help us in doing this, and especially on the impact that sorting through our books has on us.

If you want to know how to organise your personal library and bookshelves, here are ten top tips based on practical experience and from ten of my favourite books.

Continue reading “Unpacking Your Library”

QuickStart Cataloguing for Public Librarians

Event Image for NAG Quickstart Cataloguing event on 19 May 2021

Many thanks to Jennie Hillyard for approaching me for the National Acquisitions Group’s programme of online events.

Really looking forward to delivering 2 Quickstart Cataloguing sessions. The first is an introduction to cataloguing for people working in public libraries who come across books that don’t arrive shelf-ready with a pre-made set of metadata.

Programme description - please see NAG events page for full details.

Note that membership of NAG is currently FREE for public library staff, so do join up to qualify for the member discount and also all the other benefits NAG offers.

Beginning Cataloguing always offers a discounted rate for organisations that support heritage professionals, and I’m particularly pleased to receive this commission from NAG, whose recent report on shelf-ready metadata (authored by Emma Booth) has been such a great contribution to our understanding of cataloguers’ and their institutions’ needs.

In-Person Training: Testimonial from The National Trust

Testimonial The National Trust

As lockdown continues to ease, I’m grateful to Yvonne Lewis for this testimonial from the bespoke training I designed and delivered to staff at The National Trust.

“Anne designed a day’s cataloguing training for the National Trust. She worked with a small group of hand-picked property staff with considerable experience of object cataloguing on our bespoke library and museum system. Anne provided workbooks to take them through the fundamental principles behind book cataloguing and basic MARC fields. Everyone also worked through several examples, with a few tricky ones thrown in to show how judgement can still be required when dealing with your institutions needs from the catalogue.

The team had a lovely time on the day. Many questions were asked and answered. Anne also provided an element of post-training support to deal with those odd questions which always come up once you’ve left the building. Using the new trainees as fully as we would have liked has been paused due to COVID-19. We are hoping to re-start cataloguing projects slowly in 2021/22 as circumstance permit. Once we have seen how successfully the training has been, we will be considering when and how to extend the programme.”

The National Trust has its own bespoke library management system and catalogues using AACR2 in MARC, across both modern and pre-1950 books. I’m grateful to Yvonne not only for this testimonial, but also for briefing me fully on their LMS, which can only be accessed on-site, and supplying me with screenshots of the entry screens to add to the workbooks. I’m also grateful to HQ staff for printing the workbooks so that I did not have to carry them into Central London alongside my suitcase of example books for trainees to catalogue.

Bookings for in-person training is brisk – so far we have both paid and pro bono workshops booked in through to April 2022, and we are open to more. You can book a discovery meeting at https://calendly.com/annew-discoverymeeting or contact info@beginningcataloguing.com if you want to start a discussion.

Yvonne’s testimonial is available on linkedin (scroll down to “Recommendations”. Note: an odd glitch has me showing up as a client of Yvonne’s rather than the other way round).

APDO Spring Clearing Week: Making Clutter Count

At the Bonhams Plath Hughes Private View for the London Bibliophiles in 2018.

Last week was Spring Clearing Week, an annual campaign run by the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) to raise awareness of the need to Spring clear before we Spring clean.

This year, the theme was Making Clutter Count, and, since books are – of course – never clutter, I chose to focus on clothes and textile recycling. I was really inspired by the RSA’s new report Turning the Tide: Public Attitudes on Plastics and Fast Fashion, which found a gap between our desire to reduce the use of plastics and petrochemicals in our clothes and our awareness of how much we are actually consuming. It calls for “new measures to turn the tide, including a tax on virgin plastics used in clothing; a ban on marketing petrochemical-derived clothing; and a commission to prepare for the future of fashion.”

I also drew heavily on Orsola de Castro’s recent book Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act (Penguin Life, 2021). De Castro has been at the forefront of the slow fashion movement since the 1990s. Her book is full of hints and tips on how to “mend, repair and rewear” your clothes, as well as facts and figures on textile recycling, and advice on how to declutter your wardrobe more mindfully.

Preparing for the Week

As well as reading these two publications, on the build-up to Spring Clearing Week I tried out various apps to see whether I wanted to recommend them to people on Instagram. In the end, on Friday I chose to highlight @thredup, a survey you complete to find out how sustainable your wardrobe choices are; @goodonyou_app which provides information on how fair clothing brands are; and @30_wears, which allows you to photograph and diarise your use of each of your clothes. Apparently most women wear most garments only seven times before disposal, so, as its name suggests, the app aims to encourage them to up that to thirty wears.

I also did a lot of surfing the web (including APDO’s own recycling and donations hub for members) to try to find out which charities were still able to collect items for donation despite the Covid restrictions. It’s really important to do due diligence on charity bag schemes, as some collections made door to door actually give very little to the named charity. Some collectors are more conscientious than others about trying to have clothes reworn before looking to have them scrapped for recycling. And, clearly, the best route for anything containing plastics and petrochemicals is for it to be used to the point of destruction before being scrapped and repurposed.

During the Week

The APDO colleagues who run our Twitter and Instagram accounts both primed members in advance to be ready to take part in their #APDOClutterChallenge (links to Twitter – the Insta challenge was completed through Stories which is, of course, more ephemeral). Colleagues shared a range of resources, some of which were new to me. My favourites (in no particular order) are:

The APDO blog shared several articles throughout the week, including one highlighting Caroline Rogers’s recently published research into clutter and wellbeing; Linda Cavellini’s interview of upcycling and sustainability expert Lynne Lambourne; and two posts bringing together advice from a range of APDO members – ‘Decluttering During the Pandemic‘ and ‘10 Ways to Donate Your Decluttered Items That You May Not Have Thought Of!‘ I was lucky enough to have a couple of tips included in the second one – using Recycle Now to find local centres for recycling clothes and The Great Diary Project for family diaries.


This was the first APDO campaign week to take place since I became a verified member, and it was a great learning experience. I’m sure that some of my clients picked up tips directly from following the #springclearingweek hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, and all my clients will benefit from my own increased knowledge on how to make their clutter count. It was also a fantastic way to gain an insight into the things that my colleagues are most passionate about clearing out and organising – there are so many different people looking for help with so many areas of their houses that it’s really useful to know who has expertise in particular fields. Of course, the APDO Directory lets anyone search by particular specialisms, but there’s niche and then there’s niche … you can search for photo organisers, but not for librarians or archivists, for example.

Now I’m looking forward to National Organising Week in November … and, from a CPD point of view, to the APDO Conference next month.

Image: Photo taken by Daichi Ishikawa at Bonhams Plath Hughes Private View for the London Bibliophiles in 2018.

In-Person Training: Testimonial from SLA Europe Conference Workshop

“At the SLA Europe Conference held at Cambridge University in 2019, Anne’s workshop was chosen from proposals and was featured on an important part of our conference programme. The workshop was entitled – ‘“RDA? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Any RDA”: Back to the Future in Cataloguing in Special Libraries Outside the International Standards’ – which was very well-prepared, insightful and engaging as Anne arranged teams and used interesting shaped and colour dices. Her training technique and style demonstrated the theory, as well as the practical learning aspects of the workshop. I came away understanding information practices and standards better…even though I have experience in the library and information field! The use of the dices made the conference workshop remarkable, very memorable and fun for the group.”

Many thanks to Seema for her kind words, to the SLA Europe Conference Committee for selecting the workshop, and to Newnham College for its excellent hosting.

Bookings for in-person training is brisk – so far we have both paid and pro bono workshops booked in through to April 2022, and we are open to more. You can book a discovery meeting at https://calendly.com/annew-discoverymeeting or contact info@beginningcataloguing.com if you want to start a discussion.

Seema’s testimonial is available on linkedin (scroll down to “Recommendations”).

In-Person Training: Testimonial from CILIP SW

As the UK has a roadmap to ease lockdown, so in-person training can resume, I’m grateful to have received this testimonial from Catherine Chorley for some RDA training for CILIP SW in 2019.

“Anne led a training workshop on cataloguing using RDA standards for members of the CILIP South West Member Network in April 2019. As Chair of the Member Network’s Committee, I specifically sought Anne’s service …

The interest in this event was vast, and there were many email enquiries both preceding and following the event about the possibility of a repeat event, or for Anne to provide her training other regional member networks. This was largely due to Anne’s accessible and approachable teaching style, together with the comprehensive programme she put together to give attendees an introduction to cataloguing and the use of MARC/RDA.

What was evident was the great deal of care and forethought that had gone into the preparation for the event, with different cataloguing examples and exercises having been chosen to address a diversity of cataloguing quandaries and challenges.

From feedback gathered after the event, it was evident that attendees appreciated the opportunity to learn from Anne’s expertise … Comments mentioned being able to understand RDA as a direct result of the training, and the value of training in a frequently-neglected area of librarianship in many practitioners’ workplaces. Attendees also valued the depth of Anne’s teaching – they valued the knowledge about the rationale underpinning cataloguing and classification protocols and found this helped them in applying the theory in practice. This was further aided by the blend of theory teaching and practical application that Anne provided throughout the day …

In answer to the feedback question on what was enjoyable about the event, one attendee succinctly remarked, ‘All of it!’.”

Many thanks to Catherine for her kind words, and to the CILIP SW participants for a really fun day in Bristol. I hope to be able to get back to the South West when the world opens up again!

Catherine’s full testimonial is available on linkedin (scroll down to “Recommendations”).

APDO Directory Entry

APDO is the UK’s membership association for decluttering and organising professionals, and its directory offers the public a way to Find An Organiser. As well as my own specialisms in digital organisation, virtual services, public speaking and training, you can find organisers who work in areas including interior design, home staging; and working with people with hoarding behaviours.

APDO also provides information on what to expect when you book a professional organiser. As they say, “Finding the right organiser for you is a personal choice so it’s probably useful to speak or meet up before you start working together.”

I’m always happy to hear from potential clients. You can book a free discovery meeting from the link on the Tidy Beginnings page.

Tidy Beginnings Open for Bookings

Tidy Beginnings is open for bookings. An extension of my cataloguing work, it offers easy-to-access private librarian, professional organising and decluttering services.

Find out more here, and book a free discovery meeting to see if I’m the right fit to help you with:

  • decluttering your home
  • tidying up your workspace
  • organising your books and papers
  • moving – house / studio / after retirement (N.B. Not a removals service – we can help you plan, pack and unpack)
  • creating an inventory
  • preparing materials for sale or donation
  • cataloguing, where a finding aid and / or fuller inventory is required
  • any other activities you might expect from a private librarian, archivist or professional organiser
APDO logo

A verified member of APDO, the UK’s membership association for decluttering and organising professionals. APDO sets standards, provides professional development and supports the growth of the industry.