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Arranging Books

British journalist Alistair Cooke has made a career out of writing about the U.S. In the process he has built an imposing library of books about the various regions of the country that covers an entire wall. He was always having trouble finding what he needed, so he began seeking an effective way to arrange them.

Initially, he placed the books on the shelves alphabetically by the author’s names. That didn’t work, because he had trouble remembering who had written what. Then he tried arranging them alphabetically by states. That posed problems, too, because some of the books were about regions, like New England or the Great Plains. Finally, he hit upon a solution. Books about New England went on shelves in the upper right hand corner. Books about the Great Plains states went in the middle. Books about the southwestern states were placed on the lower left. When Cooke was researching any state or region, all he had to do was look at the area on the library wall that corresponded to that area on the map of the U.S.

Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 11