> I'm about to begin the laborious task of cataloguing my library and I
> would be very grateful for any suggestions on what might be a good piece
> of software to do that.
> I've got a PowerPC Mac with a copy of Filemaker Pro, but don't let that
> restrict anyone in their recommendations.
Charlie: (and others interested)
If you had a PC-- even an old XT with a monochrome display, the kind you
can't give away these days-- I'd suggest using PC Card Catalog Professional
(PCCCPRO), available as shareware from
This costs $39 to register the shareware, and upgraded versions with various
features will cost you $49-$119. I used it for several years to catalog a
small private school library. The minimal system requirements mean you can
afford to dedicate an old computer to running your catalog and doing nothing
This is probably more convenient than having to turn on your main computer
and open up your catalog every time you want to look at a book. If you
dedicate an old desktop machine, or even a portable computer with AC adapter,
you can leave it turned on all the time. If you put it on a pocket computer
like an HP 200LX, you can keep that with you when you're out buying books, or
move it around the house, if you've got books all over the house.
(Depending on your decorating tastes-- old XTs are so unwanted that that you
could keep one in every room with books in it, keep them all turned on all the
time, and run a copy of the program on each. Just remember--every time you
cataloged more titles, you'd have to do a backup, then restore files on all
those machines, unless you have a computer network in your house. And a
single license for PCCCPRO and most other programs is supposed to be for one
I'll be happy to explain in much more detail why PCCCPRO is easy to use and
work with-- ask on here or send mail.
I don't necessarily advise you to catalog your library at all. If you do so,
the program you use is a *lot* less important than several other factors.
Why are you doing this? -- unless all your books are neatly shelved now,
*and* you are still having trouble finding them or remembering if you need to
buy a particular book, don't bother. Are you wiling to take the time? Are
you willing to spend money? ($49 for a subject heading list, -- maybe
something for a new database program and/or a library classification
(Appeal to Authority)
I'm a profesional librarian who spent 18 years as a professionsl cataloger
I know whereof I speak.
(end Appeal to Authority)
I assume the reason you want a catalog is because you have quite a few books,
and you're having trouble finding all of them, and remembering what you're
missing. Or maybe there are two or more people in the house, and you want to
combine all their collections so that everyone knows what all is available.
If what you mostly have is fiction, then put it in alphabetical order on the
shelves, and perhaps make a want list for titles you don't have. You could
have a few subcategories, each in alphabetical order (general fiction,
mysteries, SF, etc.). Unless you're prepared to carry your catalog around
with you, all that cataloging fiction will do for a single household's
fiction collection is reduce the time you have available for reading ;)
********************************* What a lot of people who think they want to
catalog their libraries REALLY NEED is enough bookshelves to shelve things
properly. That means several inches of expansion space at the end of each
shelf for the new books you're buying. Without proper shelving, even the
best catalog won't help you find anything. **********************************
Seriously, even if you're a lot better typist than I am (which is certainly
possible!) this is going to take a *lot* of time. Just to type in the
author and title for fiction isn't too much trouble-- but how useful is
that?? If you're doing this because you're a collector, you need to identify
the edition you have, with place, publisher, and date-- and probably note
condition, absence of dustjacket, etc. And even for fiction, you might want
added subject entries for the main characters, or an added entry for a series
of which a particular book is a part. Doing all that, including taking the
books off the shelf to do it, and then putting them back in the proper order,
proofreading your records for typos, etc. is probably going to take at least
3 minutes a book. At that rate, 1000 books only take 50 hours, you say?
Yes, but that's fiction. And as I explain below, you may want to put some
kind of call number even on your fiction.
Non-fiction will take a *lot* longer-- if you do it right.
If you're cataloging a non-fiction collection containing books on many
different subjects, you *MUST* assign subject headings, preferably from a
preexisting list. Otherwise, you're wasting your time. If you depend on
keyword searching on title keywords, once you have a couple of thousand
books cataloged you will never find everything you have on a particular
subject-- except by chance. If you insert random keywords that seem to
describe the subject to you, the problem is that next week-- or next year--
you might think of quite a different keyword. This problem gets much worse if
several people use the same collection.
Only with a subject heading list containing controlled subject vocabulary
will you be able to look up in a cross-referenced list and figure out the
real subject heading for something in your catalog. Only with a subject
heading list will somebody else-- like your present or future spouse, child,
etc.-- be able to find the books you've cataloged. Sure, have keyword
indexing, too. But don't depend on it to find subject material.
Of course, with non-fiction you're also going to want some sort of
classification system-- at least into broad subject groupings, each of which
could be arranged alphabetically. Or you could go to a full Dewey Decimal
classification, though unless you have a lot of non-fiction on a lot of
really different subjects that may be overkill. But in any case, once you
even divide up your fiction from your non-fiction, unless you put call
numbers or section designators of some sort -- maybe just SF or CARS or NEW
AGE (for example) onto each catalog record, you will have steadily increasing
trouble finding books on the shelf. If you ever actually *read* your books
you will have trouble reshelving them properly unless (a) you look up each
book in the catalog before you reshelve it or (b) you keep some sort of call
number label with the book at all times. If you assume you don't need to do
(a), you'll find that over time your SF migrates in with your mysteries, etc.
You'll think a book is lost, buy another copy, and then find the first one
If you actually classify your books by Dewey or some other system, you *must*
use labels. Otherwise, even if you look them up in the catalog before you
reshelve them, you'll have a lot of trouble figuring out exactly where on the
shelves to put them. You could just write the call numbers into the books in
pencil. A less destructive way of achieving the same end would be to put a
bookmark on acid-free paper into each item, and put the call number or
section identifier onto each bookmark. If there's any chance that the
bookmark will ever be taken out of the book (and believe me--there probably
is!), you should put at least an accession number, and maybe an author and
title, onto the bookmark too, and pencil an accession number into the book in
an unobtrusive place (top left of page 17, for example) The accession number
will allow you to find the catalog record, which in turn will allow you to
figure out where the book goes on the shelf, and maybe make a new bookmark
for the one that somehow got lost. ;)
Once you have a system like this set up for all your books, it's possible to
use the bookmarks as a circulation system-- keep the ones for books that are
off the shelves in a box or something, (a different box for each person in
the house if this library is being shared by two or more people) with notes
attached to any bookmarks for books you've loaned to people outside the
Cataloging a book with subject headings, added entries for second authors
illustrators, etc., and a classification system involving writing something
down to put in the book will take you *at least* 10 minutes a book-- or 200
hours for 1200 volumes on non-fiction. Depending on how much spare time you
have, that probably takes up all of it for several months. Some of that time
will be spent inputting, but more of it will be spent figuring out exactly
which subject heading or headings best fit the item. Once you've started
doing this, you will have to keep doing it in order for your catalog to be
useful. If you have enough books that cataloging makes sense, you probably
buy several hundred books every year. If so, you'll need to spend an hour or
so every week or two cataloging them
-- for the rest of your life.
If you put it off, in a couple of months you'll find yourself faced with an
entire day's work doing nothing but cataloging.
************************************* Personally, *I'm* not going to catalog
the 10,000 or so books in my house until after I retire.
To catalog non-fiction right, you should invest in a subject heading list.
For small general libraries, the best list is probably Sears List of Subject
Headings, 15th ed., 1994, ISBN 0-8242-0858-7 at $49. Yes, in principle you
*could* make up your own list for scratch-- but the time it would take would
be enormous. As you use the list, mark in it which headings you have used,
and any other added headings and changes you make.
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