What materials should I use for labelling the spines of my books?
April 13, 2008 12:27 PM   Subscribe

What materials should I use for labelling the spines of my books?

A while back, I took the plunge into a big project that I've wanted to do for a long time: organizing my books. My plan went like this:

First, separate books by their physical height, into four groups: (1) Bigger than will fit (standing) on any of my shelves; (2) Smaller than that, but bigger than will fit on any but my largest shelves; (3) "Normal"; (4) Mass market paperback and smaller. This allows for minimal wasted shelf space.

Second, within each of those four broad categories, look up the Library of Congress call number for each book, write it on a piece of masking tape, stick it on the spine, and store the books in that order.

If I couldn't find the LCCN for a particular book, I would classify it under the LOC system myself, to the degree that I was reasonably confident, additionally marking it so that I would know the number on the book's spine was not official.

This was a fairly tedious process, so I would only do a few books at a time, and it therefore took quite a while. But, in general, I am happy with the results, and want to keep my collection this way. I am quite willing to keep tagging my new books as I obtain them

Unfortunately, by the time I was finishing up, the labels on the first books that I dealt with were already fading, some of them to the point of illegibility.

So, I want to do this again. But I want to do it in a manner such that I'll never have to do it a third time.

I don't know whether the fading was due to the ink that I used, the tape, both individually, or both in combination.

So, what should I use?

In addition to the permanency of legibility, I would also like the label to be something that, like masking tape, stays on well, but comes off easily and cleanly if you want it to, without damaging the book or leaving significant residue.

Finally, I've read some other AskMe posts about organizing bookshelves that showed up when I searched for this, and I'm already well aware that a lot of people think this is overkill and/or a waste of time. So if you were going to chime in with that, thanks, but not interested. I know exactly what I'm getting into.
posted by Flunkie to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
May I just say that while I have no answers for you, and am only here to find out the answer myself, I think this is an awesome idea and I would do it if I didn't like rearranging my books so much? (It's like rearranging records, or crayons.)
posted by brina at 12:36 PM on April 13, 2008

Best answer: You probably want to order spine labels that you can feed through a normal printer through a library supply store, like Gaylord Bros. or Demco. Masking tape is highly acidic and the adhesive will wear off over time. What you don't want is a foil-backed spine label; those are virtually impossible to remove. However, easy-off spine labels are available.

Here's some Demco-brand spine labels that are easily removable. I don't know if they work with a standard printer or not. Demco has excellent customer service, so you could always contact them and ask more detailed questions.
posted by k8lin at 12:52 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree, Demco is the way to go.
I would suggest that you not use even the removable labels on really valuable books, if you have any. After a while, even easy-off labels can leave a residue.

If you want to be really hardcore, instead of printing the labels you should write them in library hand!
posted by exceptinsects at 9:03 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older Speculative fiction that explores...   |   The name game Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.