Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Shhhhh... We're organizing the library...
The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life.
The specifics of organizing books can run from practical to whimsical. As the size of one's library begins to expand, the more difficult it can be to keep track of what we have, and where. For example, if we have six cookbooks, or three books on investing, it's relatively easy to know what lives where, and the fewer books we have, the more easily we'll recall that we lent Rosemary or George one of our titles. But if we have sixty cookbooks or three hundred titles on any of a variety of topics, knowing what we own, what versions or editions, and where they are can become quite a mess.
If you have a large collection of books (or really, anything shelve-able), you have various indexing options:
Think back to your elementary school library's card catalog. (Paper Doll waxes nostalgic about "library days" and how at even a tender age, she realized they were infinitely superior to "gym days".)
Your supplies: lined index cards (whiteor colored, depending on how fancy you wish your cataloging system to be) and an index card file box.
Your method: Determine what color (if you'll use colored cards) will represent each genre or category. White for fiction; for non-fiction, red can be history, green for financial, blue for medical, yellow for history and so on. This is your personal system, so create your own simple standards. You could just pick one color for "things to do" like cooking, gardening and how-to and another color for "things to know" like history, literary review, and so on. Or, simply use all white cards and be done!
Write the title of the book and the author's name on the card. If it's non-fiction, write the category, as well. Most books have the genre or non-fiction category written on the back cover. For example, on the back, top-left cover of Judith Kolberg's Organize For Disaster: Prepare Your Family And Home, it says (in small print) "How To/Disaster Preparedness/Reference". On the back of Flirting with Price & Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, the top-left back corner says "Fiction/Essays".
Write the location of the book. if you have small libraries in multiple rooms (cookbooks in the kitchen, religious books in a room designated as a sacred space or shrine, computer and financial books on the shelves next to desk in your home office, etc.), indicating generally where the books are shelved will be helpful. If you have one massive library, or something creatively funky like the Stairbookcase or color-coded bookshelves we discussed last week, you'll want to specify at least which room, which bookcase and even which shelf.
Finally, use the rest of the card and the reverse to note if someone has borrowed the book--who borrowed it and when?
There are multiple shareware or freeware software programs available; none listed below should be taken as an endorsement, per se, but as a starting point for your own research.
On the Web
LibraryThing-- is a free online service...up to a certain collection size of 200 books; beyond that, the fee is $10/year or $25 for lifetime membership, which seems, to Paper Doll, to be a bit of a steal! Once you've created your account, you can access your catalog from anywhere, even via your mobile phone. So, if you're in a fancy restaurant, having a conversation about the great book you just bought but you can't recall the author's name, it's a snap to obliterate that senior moment.
Start cataloging by typing a title, author or ISBN number into the web database and LibraryThing searches the Library of Congress, all five national Amazon sites, and more than 80 worldwide libraries to help you find the match. Later, you can edit information, search and sort it, "tag" books with your own keywords the way bloggers tag posts, or use the Library of Congress OR Dewey Decimal systems to organize your collection.
LibraryThing even has a collaborative experience, similar to social bookmarking sites like Digg, connecting people who own the same books, and providing suggestions for what to read next based on extrapolated recommendations.
GuruLib is a similarly fabulous option which lets you add content to your library in any of five ways:
Paper Doll likes to think of herself as tech-savvy, but some of those options make me swoon!
- Use a barcode reader such as Cuecat (didn't you get one for free in the 90's?) or type in the UPC or ISBN code.
- Use a webcam as a barcode reader. Just wave and GuruLib extracts the barcode from the image.
- Type the title, author or keywords
- Take a picture of the UPC or barcode on the book using your cellphone and send it as a picture message to [email protected]
- Simply take a picture or group multiple barcode pictures in a single zip file and upload the file to the website!
GuruLib can search more than 500 libraries to find content, catalogs where books are in your home and lets you create parallel virtual shelves, track your loaned books, and share your reviews with other users.
Other web options include Good Reads and Shelfari.
On Your Own Computer (Downloadable options)
Book Collector uses a simple three-step process. First, type or scan the book's ISBN number and Book Collector uses it to search various national libraries and Amazon online book stores for matches. Select your book from the search results and once you find what you want, just click "Add" to add the book to your database. Book Collector downloads everything including title, author, publisher, publication date, number of pages and even, when available, the cover art (like on iTunes). Book Collector has an under-$40 pricetag.
Libra is shareware, which means that it's currently free for non-commercial use. It's also "in beta", which means that there may be more bugs than you'd find in a for-fee software package; however, because they've got a user forum, you're likely to get a much faster response in getting those bugs fixed than with some huge corporation. (Plus, their driving directions to their offices are pretty funny.) Yes, you can use your web cam as a barcode reader, import existing collections, share reviews with friends, and they promise an "eye candy treat" to Vista users.
Readerware (which actually also works on Mac and Linux platforms, as well as on Palms and iPods) is another popular PC option.
Mac-users--Paper Doll is a Mac baby. The word is that the best downloadable program for us is Delicious Monster. After a free test, it comes with a pricetag of $40.
Just point any FireWire digital video camera, like an Apple iSight® (built in to most iMacs), or a Bluetooth scanner at the barcode on the back of any book, movie, music, or video game. The barcode is scanned and within seconds the item's cover appears on your "digital shelves" filled with tons of in-depth information downloaded from one of their six different web sources. You can also "drag and drop" the book's URL from Amazon!
For the cool hipsters out there, you can sync your cataloged library with your iPod or even print a color catalog to take with you. Keep track of the items your friends are borrowing using Delicious Library's loan management system, which integrates with Apple's Address Book and iCal. (And yes, Mac users, there is a Delicious Monster dashboard widget!)
For more Mac library cataloging options, check this list.
HIGH-TECH, MODERATE COST
One of the neatest hardware/software combos I've seen is the Intelliscanner Mini used with their Intelliscanner Media Collection software. The little hand-scanner is like a smaller version of a Star Trek phaser.
Just use the "Mini" to scan the bar code on the back of your book (or CD or DVD), and then the barcode reader automatically retrieves detailed item information and even artwork from a comprehensive database software to sort, organize, sell, and even share your books or other media. Search by title, author, ISBN, etc. and know who borrowed a book when it's not on the shelf.
With a higher price tag, this is for the gadget-loving crowd, but it makes the cataloging process not merely simple, but entirely automated. If you have a huge library, this type of solution saves you time...and it's important to remember that time is money, especially when you'd rather be reading.
posted on: 4/8/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
by Julie Bestry
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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.
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