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Organizing Library Books: Anatomy of the book

"Shelf Reading" is a process for ensuring that the items on the library shelves are in proper order.

-- courtesy Thad McIlroy, Future of Publishing

Important! The title page & the verso page

The title page lists THE OFFICIAL TITLE for the book. The official title is not required to be printed on the front cover.

  • Students will use the details on the title page and the information on the verso for needed bibliographic information for research projects.
  • Librarians will use the title page and the information on the verso to begin cataloging a book.

Segments of a book

You won’t see every segment listed every time but here is the breakdown of what you might find within a book:

  1. Front Matter: Information at the beginning of the book, often (though not always), organized with Roman numerals. Here are the segments that make up the Front Matter of a book:

Acknowledgements: Here the author thanks people helpful to the publishing of the book.

Dedication Page: this is an optional page that allows the author to dedicate the book to someone or something.

Foreword: A special introduction that offers supportive information relevant to the book, the Foreword is written by someone other than the author, who is usually distinguished/knowledgeable in the subject of the book.

Half Title Page: Only the title appears, close to the top of the page, below is blank.

Preface: Written by the author, the Preface contains important information relating to the book topic, but often tangential to the book’s subject.

Table of Contents: The Table of Contents lists the individual chapters and other elements found in the book plus the page where each chapter begins.

Title Page: The official title of the book is listed, the author(s) and publishing details.

Verso Page: The back of the title page. The verso page will include the copyright information; the ISBN and (perhaps) the Library of Congress cataloging information.


  1. Middle of the book: Following the Front Matter the book begins. The segments of the middle of the book can include:

Introduction: Before the text of the book begins the author provides more detail about the book in the optional section. Formal pagination begins here with Arabic numerals.

Body of the book: Text of the book.

                Chapters: The book's organizational scheme, used in either fiction or non-fiction books. The chapters can either be numbered (i.e. part 1, part 2, etc.) or they can be presented as scenes.


  1. Back Matter: Following the end of the final chapter is the Back Matter, segments of the book located at the end of the book. The segments of the Back Matter include:

Afterword: Any additional information for the reader.

Appendices: Nonfiction books may have one or more Appendix listing recommended books, websites, or other sources relating to the book topic. A fiction work might have an appendix, chances are it will not.

Author Biography: Information about the author, usually written by the publisher.

Bibliography: Lists the references the author used in writing the book.

Glossary: Usually found in a nonfiction work, the glossary lists vocabulary words and definitions needed to comprehend the book’s subject(s).

Index: Usually in nonfiction books the index is an alphabetical list of significant terms found in the text and the pages they appear on, helpful for pinpointing specific information in the text of the book.