Monday, November 1, 2010

Cataloging my Library.

I've played around with this idea before, but have never been able to justify the work. I have an odd tactile memory with things in my apartment: as long as I was the one to put something in its' current resting place, I know exactly where it is at any point in time. This, of course, includes my books. I don't have to hunt for a book, should I want to reference a passage, or wonder which stack on the floor of my closet a book is in. (I also never lose my keys.)

My friend, Gabe's apartment burned all the way down this weekend and he was faced with the awful scenario of, 'Ten seconds of snatch-and-grab, what should I take?' I, like Gabe, have good renters insurance, but seeing all he is going through may be impetus to sit down and account for all my books--some of which are rare, and pricey--should such a calamity befall me.

So since I'm going to be taking inventory and re-addressing the records, I might as well not half-ass the job and formally organize my meager book collection. Anyone done this before? What's the best method and how do I start?


Terry Weyna said...

I have been slowly but surely getting our library catalogued on LibraryThing. I purchased a lifetime membership for something like $25, which is pretty darned cheap.

There are multiple ways to get your books onto LibraryThing; you can enter all the ISBNs (which is how I'm doing it); you can buy one of their scanners, which you can run over the bar code on a book jacket or paperback cover, and the information will automatically appear online; or, if you have an older book that doesn't even bear a Library of Congress number on it, you can enter the title of the book and wade through the various entries that appear until you find the right one that matches your book (we have way too many of this sort of book). Oh, and if you have something that still doesn't show up, you can enter the book manually.

I've gotten something like 9,000 books input to date -- most of the upstairs, very little of the downstairs, but that still means that I have a good 13 bookcases and one closet to catalog. Unfortunately, my husband rearranged the books in his study when I was in the middle of cataloging it, so I'm not sure what I've input from that room and what remains to be done -- and they're some of the toughest books to catalog, the older ones without any sort of identifying number.

It's been fun to go through my books this way -- reminding me of books I'd forgotten I owned, informing me of books that Fred brought to our marriage that I've never really paid attention to before. It's also a great resource for updating my "want" list based on things like lists of the core canon of slipstream or essential postmodern novels or the like; I can search my online library to see if I've got the books instead of walking all over the house to search the shelves and closets and cabinets.

I also really enjoy LibraryThing's Early Readers program, which gives you limited access to advanced copies of new books. I've gotten some great stuff for free that way!

Chad Hull said...

Thanks for bringing LibraryThing to my attention. I've heard of it before but never really looked into what it is/does.

You make it sound appealing to wade through the books I haven't seen or laid hands on in a while and finding buried treasure. Next time I have a weekend off, I know what I'll be doing.