Cataloguing my Books

I have a lot of books! This photo shows two of my large bookshelves in the entertainment room. I have two more bookshelves in the home office, books under the desk, books in the kitchen and more books stored in boxes stashed away in my storeroom.  The bookshelf on the right has two rows with a double layer of paperbacks. I like to the make the most of the space.

A frequent challenge is to find a book I know I have. Sometimes I have spent hours searching for a book. The solution to the problem was to do a stocktake of all my books and create a catalogue with location information. During this Christmas break I tidied out my storeroom and tookthe opportunity of cataloguing all the books.

I also have a lot of ring binders containing photocopies and printouts. I created tables of contents for each folder and kept this information in the spreadsheet for rapid searching.

Where did all these books come from? I love reading and for the past 30 years I have frequented book shops, second hand book sales, and more recently the annual Lifeline book fair, and Stanton Library’s bookfair table. I used to work at Time Life books and was able to buy many books from their “Softback Preview” book club.  I probably own around 1500 – 2000 books. Once my cataloguing is complete I will make a count from the spreadsheet.

I still buy books mostly for my professional development (E-Learning and Data Visualisation) but storage space is very limited. I aim to give away some books in the middle of 2012 to Lifeline book for their book fair.

The solution to managing my book collection and finding a book was to create a catalogue.

I decided to keep my system simple so I created an Excel spreadsheet. How did I design the spreadsheet? First of all I created a list of location codes. Each shelf has a unique code as well as a code for the back of the shelf and the front. This photo is one of my quick reference guides:

The spreadsheet has the following columns:

  • Location – code for the book’s current location
  • ToDo – ‘Y’ means I want to read this book
  • Found – Used for tagging books when conducting a stock take
  • Title – Book Title
  • Author – Author’s name – spelt out for easy searching
  • Notes – sometimes I make a note of where I bought the books, for example, Lifeline 2010
  • Keywords  – Tags used to classify the book. Rather than use a library system like Dewey Decimal I enter tags for easy searching. For example, Japanese Literature for fictional works by Japanese authors.  I often sort the spreadsheet by this column to check the categories I have created and to edit for consistency.
  • Year – Year of publication
  • Cost – sometimes I enter the details but this information is usually not important.
  • Date Acquired – date of purchase
Click the picture below to see part of the spreadsheet:

Folders are catalogued in two parts. First of all the folder is given a unique name for example “Folder W”. Its location is stored in the worksheet described above.  Then I have another worksheet with these columns used to store the contents of the folder and the folder name.

  • Folder Name – matching the name used in the first worksheet.
  • Sequential Number – 1, 2, 3 etc for each set of pages in the folder. The numbers are the sequence of the contents of the folders
  • Title – of the article or book from which the pages are extracted
  • Source – where are these pages from? (magazine, journal, etc).
  • Author
  • Year
  • Keyword – same method as for the books.

I have many folders with Piano Sheet Music and these are catalogued in a manner similar to the folders except the columns are Title, Composer and Notes.

What’s next?

The spreadsheet is a useful resource for searching for books. I make sure that if I move a book to a new location then I update the spreadsheet  otherwise the system breaks down.  I also need to do regular shelf tidying and stocktake the contents of a shelf. This can be tedious especially when there are a lot of books behind the front row.

Nowadays I prefer to buy PDF files (from O’Reilly publishers or InformIT) or Kindle E-books from Amazon. No shelf space is required however cataloguing the eBook and PDF collection is another challenge and will be the subject of a future blog post.

I use the spreadsheet to flag books to read and this is part of my “To Read” list. I may be able to flag books I can donate or pass on to others.

I will create a compact PDF file with the contents of the catalogue so I can browse on my phone.

Book Categories

In case you are wondering what sort of books I have, here are some of the keywords on file: Ancient Egypt, Animation, Art, Atomic Bomb (history – not how to make one), Australia, Biography, Brain Skills, C Programming, Career, Cartooning, Christianity, Cinema, Classical Music, Computer Science, Cooking, Creativity, Eastern Religion, English Language, Fiction,  Film, Greece, History, Humour, Japan, Japanese Language, James Joyce, Law, Literature, Mathematics, Music, Mythology, Natural History, Personal Development, Poetry, Photography,  Psychology, Public Speaking, Reference, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Space Exploration, Travel, Unix, Visual Communication, Zen.

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2 thoughts on “Cataloguing my Books”

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