How Much Does A Small Home Library Cost? (Budget Advice)

We’ve always had a lot of books in our house, so we’ve also always had a lot of shelves. What we’ve never had though is a library – so how much do they cost?

A small home library will cost you between $300-$500 dollars for just a bookshelf, up to $10,000-$15,000 for a full room lined with wooden shelves complete with a built in desk and lighting. It all depends what you want, what your budget is and how many books you’ve got.

Let’s look at financing a library build in more detail, and consider what essential elements you’ll need, how much they’ll cost – and we’ll also discover how to turn your living room into a library too…

How Much Does A Small Home Library Cost?

How Expensive is it To Build a Small Home Library?

The cost of building a new library depends on what you want to achieve. If you’re looking at a fairly modest conversion of a guest bedroom, it can cost as little as the price of a used bookcase or two. If you want something that resembles the library from Beauty and the Beast, you’re going to need a bigger budget…

There’s also the quality of the fixtures. Obviously, the most important thing is shelving. Going down the route of having bespoke shelves made and fitted by a professional carpenter can cost several thousand dollars, even for a small space. However, if your library is to be a real feature of your home, this could be worth it.

You can always head down to your local timber yard or Lowe’s and pick up the wood. If you like a DIY project, creating perfectly fitting, bespoke shelving is really satisfying and will only costs a few hundred dollars. You needn’t build elaborate bookcases: you could simply put up brackets and wall shelves (wall structure permitting).

If you haven’t built shelves before, take a look at this short film about how to build a bookcase from YouTube DIY expert Ana White. She also uses a free online design tool to make sure she has the right specifications for the space.

What about ready-made or self-assembly bookcases? It’s important that your bookcases or shelves are sturdy. Cheap bookshelves will eventually bend and bow, which will look awful for a few years before finally breaking. Good-quality used bookcases are much better value than cheap, new ones.

Check out your local thrift stores, or your neighborhood Facebook groups. You may find a bargain that you can upcycle. If luck is smiling on you, you could even catch a college, school or actual library clear-out, where they’re getting rid of lots of shelving for cheap.

Other essentials include somewhere comfy to sit with your books, a good reading lamp or two, and if it’s doubling as a study, a desk for your new library. These needn’t be expensive, and again, you can try to shop used.

What Elements Do You Need For a Home Library?

As well as books and shelves, what other elements do you need to think about? Here are a few things you’ll need for your home library:

  • A dry space. The area you choose for your library needs to be clean and dry, to keep the books in good condition
  • A solid wall and a level floor. Even if you use a bookcase rather than wall-mounted shelves, you’ll still need to screw it into the wall for safety. So, you need to make sure it’s a solid and safe wall. If the floor isn’t level, you’ll have problems with bookcases rocking
  • Good lighting. If the general lighting isn’t good, you won’t be able to read the spines on the shelves
  • Comfortable seating. If you want to curl up surrounded by books (and doesn’t that sound blissful!), invest in a couch, chair, or beanbag for your home library. Add a reading lamp and a small side table for your coffee
  • Steps. These are essential if your bookcases are taller than you are. You don’t need a ladder (well, unless you’re replicating the George Peabody Library), so one of those single steps that small kids use to reach the basin should be enough

How Do I Turn My Living Room Into a Library? (If I Don’t Have a Whole Room)

Don’t worry if you don’t have a handy guest room or study to convert: it’s easy to create a cute little library in part of an existing room. If you’re thinking of converting a space in your living room into a library, here are a few suggestions.

  • A cozy corner can make a lovely library area. Add a lamp and an armchair, and you’ve instantly created a new reading zone
  • If you have a large, open-plan space, you can use freestanding shelves to create a partition. Those modern, cube bookcases are great in a contemporary space, or you can even use solid bookcases to create a new “room” in a more traditional-style home (just like in a real library)
  • There’s room for shelves in most living rooms. The wall next to the dining table is often an empty space, or perhaps there’s room behind the couch
  • Does it have to be the living room? An underused hallway or landing can be a great space to put your bookshelves. You might even have room for a window seat or bench as well

How Many Books Do You Need For a Home Library? (And Where To Get Them)

This is a really tricky one: how many books do you have? A true booklover probably already has boxes and boxes of books all ready for their new home. However, if you’re feeling the need to fuel some new bookshelves, how do you go about this?

Try thrift stores, garage sales, and local internet groups. Libraries themselves can be a great source of used books, because they periodically have sales to shift older books. 

If you want to fill a home library with elegant-looking, leather bound books, some used booksellers can still sell books “by the yard” as space fillers. You can buy sets of antique-looking books that create a lovely, traditional ambience on your shelves (provided you’re not too fussed about the content).

However, for a keen reader, it’s often the case of how to stuff lots of books into a finite space! If this is you, design your new library with room for expansion. This could be as simple as building more shelves than you need, and putting placeholder plants or ornaments in these spaces for now.

You can also (shock horror) double stack your books, with a layer of seldom-read books behind the row at the front of the shelf. This is also a great way to hide any embarrassing titles that you don’t own up to reading (and yes, we all buy trashy novels at the airport…). Just make sure that the shelf can take the weight.

Home library

Should I Even Have a Home Library? (Is It Worth It?)

What are the benefits of having a home library? Well, if you love reading and have a lot of books, we’d say a definite yes. It’s a neat way to store your books safely, and because most of your books will be in the same place, you’ll always be able to find the one you need.

A library or reading area is also a lovely aesthetic touch in a home. Bookcases can be really attractive pieces of furniture, especially when combined with pleasing task lighting.

A separate library area also makes it easier to set house rules: this is the dedicated reading space, so no shouting, loud chatting, cell phones or TV. This can be especially helpful if you have kids. And speaking of which, a home library sets out a really important lesson for children: reading matters, and it’s part of our family life.

Does The Number of Books in a Child’s Home Matter?

Having books in the home is important if you want your child to grow up to enjoy reading. Confining books to school will give the message that books aren’t part of everyday life, and it certainly won’t foster a love of reading for pleasure.

Obviously, the more (age-appropriate) books you have, the more access your kids have to different stories and information. However, a modest library of well-chosen books can be every bit as good. Dedicate the lower shelves to kids; books so they can help themselves, and maybe have a beanbag or a cushion nearby so they can easily get comfy with their chosen read.

Final Words

There are so many benefits of building a library for the whole family that we’re now seriously considering it when we build out extension.

Not only are they a great place to relax and unwind, but the advantages of home libraries for children cannot be underestimated too.

So while I’ve said we’ve got a lots of books – it looks like we’ll have to invest in even more in future. 🙂