Books and Things, Part One – Cataloging Your Library

I’ve recently purchased new shelving to accommodate my ever-increasing library, and thought I’d talk the opportunity to talk about home libraries and how to manage them.

There are several ways to catalog your books. Some people use spreadsheets, but there are several products that allow you to enter a great deal of information about a book by typing in the ISBN number, scanning a barcode, or typing in a book title. After trying out a few, I have some recommendations.

I’ve been using LibraryThing since late 2008.

My home page on LT

It’s a web-based site, which I can access via a smart phone. Why is this important? Have you ever bought a book, brought it home, and then realized you have it? Perhaps the cover changed, or you had read a review long ago and put it on your mental wish list, and then forgot that you forgot.

LibraryThing is free for catalogs up to 200 books. If your library is larger, you have the options for an annual membership of $10 per year, or a lifetime membership of $25. Although there are some free sites, which I will discuss later, I think LibraryThing is a very good product and a bargain. (Remember on free sites – if you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.)  Also, because it’s a business, LT isn’t interested in selling you anything else, and doesn’t link your information to Facebook or Twitter. It is also available in several languages.

Edit page on LT

Books are simply entered by typing in the ISBN number, or name, and then clicking the appropriate book.  You can also enter via a barcode scanner, available from several sources that are linked on the website. Once entered, you can edit the book entry to your heart’s content:  create virtual shelves or collections, add tags, review and rate, see conversations other members had about the book.

Customizable detail pages for your books

If you’re really OCD, you can also enter data such when you bought or read the book, how much you paid, movies made from the book, lists of characters, opening lines, or anything else you have time for.  One of the data fields that populates when you enter your book is the Library of Congress call number, which I will discuss in Part Two.

Sorting on tags

Once you’ve entered your books, you can sort and search. I sometimes use this feature to look for my books by a particular author, or by tag. One nice feature is that you can create a sort and then send a URL to a friend, who can view that list even if they don’t have a membership at LT. You can also make some or all of your books private, in case you don’t want your friends knowing you have a secret passion for trashy bodice-ripper novels by British aristocracy. Which I don’t.   I really like LT, and highly recommend it. My only complaint is that they don’t have a mobile app to sync with their site, but LT’s latest newsletter reports that it’s in the pipeline.

Other features include forums, links to local events (readings, author appearances, book clubs), and an Early Reviewer sign-up where you can get free books in exchange for reading and reviewing new publications. I don’t use any of these features, but you can browse them by visiting their site.

Next in Part Two: Some of the free sites.

Book Lovers, Anyone?
What Are Your Books?
Vintage Book Covers
Fiction, Non-Fiction and Just Plain Weird

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Categories: book review

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3 replies


  1. Books and Things, Part Two – More Home Library Catalogs « Two Different Girls
  2. Books and Things – Organizing a Home Library « Two Different Girls
  3. A Skeptic’s Home Library | Yankee Skeptic

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