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Organize Your General Knowledge Books in 4 Easy Steps

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Are you wondering if you have an abundance of general knowledge books? If you answer “yes” to the following questions, you might:  Are you a facts addict? Do you love old encyclopedias and books of miscellaneous facts? Are you obsessed with artificial intelligence or cryptozoology? 

Read the post below. If you find 30 or more books in your collection belong in General Knowledge, this will help you sort it!

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.

Kofi Annan

Home Library Organization

People who love books often accumulate large collections of them. And it can be frustrating when you find yourself wanting to consult a particular book, or having an urge to reread one, only to waste a lot of time tracking it down. You’re pretty sure you still have it, but it’s lost among all the others. 

In my last post, I outlined the advantages of using the Dewey Decimal Classification system for organizing your nonfiction books. If you have a lot nonfiction print books in your collection, that’s the first step. I also listed a few of the types of books that belong in this section, such as encyclopedias, as well as basic fact books, and those on computer science and UFOs.

If you suspect more than 30 of your books belong here, read on.  This post will give you the guidance to further refine your General Knowledge collection.

Dewey Decimal Categories

The chart above covers the basic ten categories of the DDC. If you haven’t gone through your books to decide where they belong, you may want to look at my previous post and go through those steps first. Then come back here for more in depth information on the first category:  The 000s General Knowledge.

The 4-step process for home library organization

The four-step home organization process is covered in more detail in “Easy Home Library Organization Using the Dewey Decimal System.” But here, briefly, are the steps:

  1. Examine the chart above.
  2. Decide in which category above each book belongs. 
  3. Make piles of books for each category.
  4. Decide where each category will be housed. 

Very few personal collections contain books in every category. You may be surprised to find 90 percent of your books can be grouped into one specific section.

If you find a lot of your books don’t seem to fit neatly into any of the other categories, it is quite possible they belong in the 000s.

You may want to look over each subdivision and further divide your books accordingly. If you chose to make a spreadsheet of your books as suggested in “Easy Home Library Organization Using the Dewey Decimal System,” you may want to further mark your books on the spreadsheet. For instance, if you had 30 books marked as belonging in General Knowledge, you may now have 10 of those marked at 010, 5 as 050, 12 as 070, and 3 as 080.

You can find more information on keeping records of your books in my post on that topic. 

 Every book collection is different. The point is to narrow your collection down more specifically, so you will be able to locate the books effortlessly when you need to find one. 

Below is a chart that further subdivides the General Knowledge category.

General Knowledge categories in brief

Below is a brief discussion of each subcategory of General Knowledge books. Each of these can be further subdivided into ten subcategories. I’ll go into more detail about some of the  subcategories in future posts. 

000 Computer Science, Knowledge, Systems

explore blogs

First, the computer science books contain books on computer hardware, data processing, software, cyber security, interdisciplinary works on automatic computer systems, artificial intelligence, computer pattern recognition, computer graphics, and multimedia systems, including website information. That’s not all that goes here, but it is a general overview. 

Next, the knowledge books are described in the classification manual as books that cover the “intellectual activity in general” and  “interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge.” These are the books that talk about intellectual life, scholarship, and learning. This is also where books about controversial knowledge like UFOs, monsters, and mysterious places belong.

Finally, books on systems cover forecasting, different kinds of systems,  systems theory, analysis, design, optimization and models.

Recommended books in generalities and computer science:

  • The Thinking Person’s UFO Book by Gordon Chism
  • Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay
  • The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
  • Visualization Made Simple: Insights into Becoming Visual by Kristen Sosulski
  • Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty by Vikram Chandra
  •  Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil

010 Bibliographies

Bibliographies are books that contain specific lists of books or works. If you were born before 1990, you have used them to find material for papers in school. In addition, catalogs belong here. The difference between bibliographies and catalogs is that bibliographies bring together works on a specific subject, or type of book, whereas catalogs list books belonging to a specific organization or physical facility.

This can be confusing because if a bibliography is on a very subject specific (say all of the books on it relate to Edgar Alan Poe, for example) it would belong in the 800s with the Literature books. Likewise, if another book had short biographies of scientists with bibliographies of their works, it would likely be shelved in the 500s with the science books.

So which books go here? Books about how to make bibliographies, books of general (covering more than one specific topic) bibliographies, and bibliographies about people that are not clearly associated with a specific subject belong here. And so do any bibliography attributed to an anonymous or pseudonymous (using false names) individual.

Recommended books in bibliographies:

  • Mixed Heritage: Your Source for Books for Children and Teens about Persons and Families of Mixed Racial, Ethnic, and/or Religious Heritage by Catherine Balckenmore
  • A Bibliography of American County Histories by P. William Filby
  • Index to Children’s Songs: A Title, First Line, and Subject Index compiled by Carolyn S. Peterson and Ann D. Fenton

020 Library and Information Sciences

library science

These books make me nostalgic. Basically, all books relating to the administration, operation, personnel, services, and collections of libraries belong here. And a large part of my personal book collection is made up of  my favorite books–those that write about recreational reading and recommendations of books for the people who love it.

Recommended books in library and information science:

  • The InformationA History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
  • Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List by James Mustich
  • The World is Just a Book Away edited by James J. Owens

030 Encyclopedias and books of facts

Encyclopedias of general information go in the 030s. This is not the place for encyclopedias on specific subjects, like inventions. They would go in the 600s, the Applied Sciences. Here we put old copies of The World Book Encyclopedia or The Encyclopedia Britannica. I envy anyone who owns an old set of encyclopedias. I can still get happily lost in them. Back when they were being printed annually, the old sets might be placed on the regular shelves, but the new sets were placed in the Reference section. The last print edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica was­­­ published in 2010.  General encyclopedias written in any language in the world are shelved in this section. 

Recommended books in general encylopedic works:

  • Famous Frist Facts: A Record of First Happenings, Discoveries, and Inventions in the United States by Joseph Nathan Kane
  • Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati

040 Unassigned

In the original 1876 edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification this section was Polygraphy. The Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary Online defines polygraphy as “literary productiveness or versatility.” The obsolete meaning is cryptography which is “the art or practice of preparing or reading messages in a form intended to prevent their being read by those not privy to the secrets of the form.” My guess is, with the advent of computers, books on polygraphy are seldom published. 

050 Magazines, journals, and serials

Magazines and journals themselves are not shelved here. Instead, this section is for books about those periodicals, like About Town: The New Yorker and the World it Made by Ben Yagoda that I gleefully devoured last summer.

This is also for indexes of magazines and journals, like the H. W. Wilson Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature that was a staple in every library’s reference department through the 1990s. Now they are usually accessed through digital databases. It is quite doubtful you have these in your home collection. They are still indispensable in libraries of all types. 

Another familiar type of book that belongs in this category is general almanacs like The World Almanac and Book of Facts that you may remember from school. Once again, these types of books, no matter what language in which they were written, belongs in this section, even if they are translated into English.

060 Associations, organizations, and museums


Associations and organizations refer to academies, conferences, congresses, foundations, and societies whose activity is not restricted to specific fields. For instance, works on a psychological society would be shelved in the 100s, Philosophy and Psychology.

But the general associations in this section would have housed their histories, charters, membership lists, administrative reports, and proceedings, if available. This section also includes interdisciplinary works on organizations in general: their licensing, certification, accreditation, procedures, and the like. Robert’s Rules of Order on parliamentary procedure is an example.

All works on museum services, management, and exhibits belong in this section as well. Once again, works on a specific type of museum would likely be housed under the subject contained in the museum. Information on the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York City would likely be in the 700s, the Arts.

Recommended books in general organizations and museology:

  • Professional Ethics and Insignia by Jane Clapp
  • Lost in the Museum: Buried Treasures and the Stories They Tell by Nancy Moses
  • Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler

070 News media, journalism, and publishing

In a lot of libraries this can be a sizable section. It covers a lot. Print media, motion pictures, and broadcast media. Journalism books, including investigative journalism, news media, information-gathering techniques, reporting, and photojournalism are shelved in the 070s. And publishing as a subject, kinds of publications, and books on book clubs go here too. 

Recommended books in news media, journalism, and publishing:

  • Max Perkins: Editor of Genius  by A. Scott Berg
  • The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century  by Alan Brinkley
  • The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource guide: Every Indie Author’s Essential Directory to Help Your Prepare, Publish, and Promote Professional Looking Books  by Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent
  • Audition: A Memoir by Barbara Walters
  • The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times by Susan E. Tifft
  • Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies

080 General collections

Included here are abstracts, addresses, lectures, essays, interviews, graffiti, and quotations books from the entire globe.

Recommended books in general collections: 

  • Great Treasury of Western Thought: Statements on Man and His Institutions by the Great Thinkers of Western History edited by Mortimer Adler and Charles Lincoln Van Doren
  • Ideas and Opinions  by Albert Einstein
  • Quotations in Black edited by Anita King
  • Allusions–Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary edited by Laurence Urdang and Frederick G. Ruffner Jr.
  • International Thesaurus of Quotations edited by Rhoda T. Tripp

090 Manuscripts and rare books

Illustrated manuscripts, both ancient and modern, block books, incunabula (books printed before 1501), early printed books, books that are notable for their bindings (but not books on how to do bookbinding; they belong in the 600s), books known for their illustrations or material makeup, books that are notable for their origins or ownership or that are known for their format (like miniature editions) are all shelved here. Forgeries and hoaxes also belong here.

I could camp out in this section and be happy for a long time.

Sit back and admire your organized shelves


Once you have further subdivided your general knowledge books, be sure to update any spreadsheets or card catalogs you may have made for them. I cover that here. Part of the joy of having a system is that you will never need to worry about misplacing a beloved book again.

Now pour yourself a favorite beverage and enjoy your organized book collection. 

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