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Solving the Home Library Problem? 579

Posted by Cliff
from the dewey-decimal dept.
zgrossbart asks: "My wife and I have about 3,500 books. We can't find anything. All the books are in random order. We want to find a solution for organizing our books. We have a barcode scanner, but I'm not sure the best way to use it. I want a solution that is easy to maintain going forward and makes books easy to find. I also want the data in an open format. I'm think about using MySQL right now, but I'm open to other suggestions. What software do other people use to organize their home libraries?"
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Solving the Home Library Problem?

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  • BookCrossing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pete (big-pete) (253496) * <peter_endean@hotmail.com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:17AM (#14972171)

    If you love something, set it free [bookcrossing.com]!

    -- Pete.

    • Re:BookCrossing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by the grace of R'hllor (530051) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:32AM (#14972327)
      Soooo many books that are probably being tossed in the garbage at McDonalds, I want to scream.

      Well, I work at a Helpdesk, so me wanting to scream is nothing special, but still.

      Anyway, the idea of keeping your books is that, if you desire something to read, you can reach into a shelf and there you will find treasure. As well as being able to look upon a story with either new insights into the story (multi-volume fantasy epics like Steven Erikson's, frex) or new insights into yourself.
    • by goodEvans (112958) <devans@airatla n t a.ie> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:35AM (#14972354) Homepage
      I prefer the Dead Milkmen's solution here:

      "If you love somebody, better set them on fire..."
    • Re:BookCrossing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Auger Duval (806421) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:29PM (#14973595)
      I believe this has already been taken care of... It's called the Dewey Decimal System.
      • Gak! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dhasenan (758719) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:13PM (#14976066)
        Library of Congress is better--the call number for each book is unique. With Dewey, you have a subject heading, and all the books within that subject are basically unordered, as far as the system goes. If you can't find the author of a book, then, what do you go by? Just the title?

        Still, your personal system depends largely on how you usually remember your books. Do you usually say 'I had a green book about so high and maybe four or five hundred pages long'? If so, you might find it most intuitive to have your books physically ordered by appearance and use a database to browse by subject or author. Or do you usually do research on a particular subject? Then going by the Library of Congress system would probably be best. Or if you binge on particular authors, you might prefer categorizing authors by field and then arranging books by author.

        Disclaimer: I am a librarian, and I work in a university library using LoC call numbers.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:17AM (#14972175) Journal
    Dear Mr. Guy Montag [wikipedia.org],

    It has come to our attention that you have a surplus of books stored at your residence.

    We have already dispatched firemen to alleviate you of this horrible affliction--fire trucks will be there within the hour. For you see, special-interest groups and other "minorities" objected to books that offended them. As a result, books all began to look the same, as writers tried to avoid offending anybody. This isn't enough, however, and society as a whole decided to simply burn books rather than permit conflicting opinions.

    There are other unpleasantries that books cause but there is no need for me to go that far into detail.

    As you can see, your search for a digital Dewey decimal system is unneeded. And it is quite peculiar that anyone should have as many books as you do. Do not worry, though, we are a free public service!

    Thank you again in your cooperation and trust that our services will be a valuable solution to your growing literary problem.

    Sincerely,

    Karl Rove [wikipedia.org] Senior Advisor & Chief Political Advisor The Bush Administration
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:17AM (#14972176) Homepage Journal
    I bootlegged a copy of AV Cataloger [avcataloger.com] and liked it so much that I bought it. I recommend it to all, but it is a Windows-based program.

    I'm sure you can write your own, but AV Cataloger hits all the sites to gain information -- even Amazon for books. It also helps to keep track of what you loan to people (my mother is the worst thief my latest report shows!).

    I know /. readers don't like closed-source Windows-only software, so I'd welcome an F/OSS solution just like this. Until then, this is a worthy purchase.
  • Um... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DorkusMasterus (931246) <dorkmaster1@ g m a i l . com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:17AM (#14972184) Homepage
    I think you lost most of the slashdotters when you started with "My Wife..." People are googling this "wife" to see what they can find out about the phenomenon. Once that dies down, then maybe you'll get some results.
  • by Shimdaddy (898354) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:18AM (#14972193) Homepage
    Seriously, the Dewey Decimal System has always worked for me. Unless you're running an actual "Go-ahead-and-check-stuff-out" library out of your home, the barcodes and MySQL seem like total overkill.
    • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:39AM (#14972399)
      This is a good point. There's no reason in going hi-tech with scanners and bar codes when simpler solutions can do the job. Maybe that's the problem -- you're looking for a hi-tech solution to a lo-tech problem, so you're forgetting things like sorting by category and alphabetizing by the author's last name. I don't use the Dewey Decimal System, but I sorted my books years ago. I have fiction divided into several groups (sf & fantasy, literature, drama...) and the rest are grouped by subject matter and eact section is sorted by author's last name. I made sure the shelving arrangement allowed for adding a lot of books along the way. When done, I also had a good sized pile of books that were left over from college or from my ex-wife that were ones I'd never need or want to read, so I took them to the used book store for credit and that helped, as well.

      Who needs scanners and bar codes? Libraries have kept much bigger book collections organized for centuries with less tech than that.
      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:08PM (#14972690) Homepage Journal

        The problem with using the Dewey Decimal system in a residence is that home users may not have room to line up books by author. Books come in multiple sizes, but an individual shelf only holds one [maximum] size of book - and is inefficient with anything smaller. Thus, most home book collections are organized by available space.

        People without more shelf space than they can use are much better off just labeling everything where it sits, and returning books to the hole from which they came. The book information can go into a database, and you can search/browse them that way. Some clever software even steals book covers from amazon so you don't have to do it manually.

        My final suggestion is to put a barcode on each shelf. You could put one on the bookshelf too, but that's redundant. Scan the shelf, then scan all the books on the shelf. You can accomplish all this with a very simple untethered barcode reader (read: inexpensive.) When you bring the reader back and dump the data, all you have to do is maintain a teensy bit of state (remember the bookshelf info from the scan) and then just stick records in the db as you go. Each book will be recorded as being in the last location scanned. When you get a new location, overwrite the old variables, and keep going. When you get to the end of the data, you go home a winner. Snarf the data out of amazon or similar using one of the many APIs available (up to and including the official one) and you're done.

    • So, did you purchase your Dewey Decimal licence, or do we have to send the Library Police after you?

      Hint: the Dewey Decimal System is not free to use...

      • A good point. That's why I encourage people to use the Library of Congress system. No license to use it and all books have the same number no matter what library you're in. In fact, most books list their Library of Congress system number on the inside from cover (or one of the front pages).
      • Are you maybe thinking of the Library Hotel [wikipedia.org] which got into trouble with OCLC [oclc.org], who owns the trademark / copyright to the Dewey Decimal System?

        As far as I can tell the only cost you might run into in trying to categorize with the Dewey Decimal system is if you want to purchase one of OCLC's classification indexes.

        But maybe you're thinking of a different instance in which OCLC required payment for use of the classification system for a small private collection. If that's the case, I'd be genuinely intereste

    • Heck, that's only if they're non-fiction. For all the fiction ones, you just alphabetize them.

      And besides that, barcoding and sticking them in a database won't help you anyway, if what you want to do is find where they are in your house!

    • by oneiros27 (46144) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:10PM (#14972711) Homepage
      If you have a specialty library, it can be completely useless -- imagine going into a library where every book was filed under '005' (computer programming). If you don't have a general library, Dewey isn't going to be as useful for sorting -- you'll want to look into a specialty thesaurus or ontology for your holdings.

      As generalized libraries go, if there's a chance of moving it to a database, I personally prefer UDC [wikipedia.org], due to the way in which is handles sub-topics. (if you had something on the History of British Railroads -- where does it get filed in Dewey? History, European Countries, or Transportation Infrastructure? UDC maintains each of the facets, without needing 3 books of indexing instructions)

    • The Dewey Decimal system works well for "I have a general idea of the subject I want, so let me browse around and find a book that looks interesting", but if you're going to do all your searching at a computer instead of "in the stacks", and storage efficiency is a concern, the Library of Congress system may be a better choice.

  • Delicious Library (Score:5, Informative)

    by jnd3 (116181) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:18AM (#14972199) Homepage
    If you've got a Mac (a big IF, I know), Delicious Library [delicious-monster.com] is the way to go. I've not seen its equal for Mac or PC. Barcode scanning (I use a modified USB CueCat), auto-querying for book covers and other information, borrowers, and so forth. Works for books, CDs, video games, DVDs, whatever. Worth every penny!
    • Re:Delicious Library (Score:3, Informative)

      by bjpirt (251795)
      I would second this - it works fantastically for my DVDs

      Although, I'm unsure how well it would work with generating locations for the books - would you have to decide where to put things on your shelves or would it classify it according to the dewey decimal system and then you'd know where to put it on your shelves.

      Works ok for my DVDs because we can just store them alphabetically.

      ( opening up Delicious library to have a look...)
    • There's also Media Collector [intelliscanner.com], which looks great (for books, dvd's etc). I haven't used it yet but I've been meaning to get a copy one of these days.

      Win and Mac, and works via Bluetooth (or usb, iirc)

    • When I bought Delicious Library, I wound up spending all night scanning in all my books.

      Note: some items trigger easter eggs when you add them to your library.
  • Three answers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gowen (141411)
    Pick one of these methods of classification.
    i) LoC classification.
    ii) Dewey-decimal.
    iii) Alphabetised by author.

    I'd recommend (i).
    Given the small number of fields (Author, Title, Year, Publisher, LoC shelfmark), you can store the information in a flat text file.
    • Re:Three answers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ivan256 (17499) * on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:28AM (#14972294)
      With any of those options, and such a small number of books, why not just organize the shelves. Seperate the shelves by category and then organize each shelf by author. That way a quick visual scan of the shelf will give you the book you want in less time than it takes you to query a database, or sit down and open a text file. If you can't remember which title goes with wich author, you certainly don't need your own database for that. There are plenty that exist already and are internet searchable.

      There are libraries in the world with hundreds of thousands of books, and you can walk right in and find a book you want. The technical aspects of this are just pure unnecessary geekery.
      • That's exactly what my wife and I do -- the books are categorized by general type (fiction, cookbooks, reference, etc.), and within each category we sort by author. More or less.

        It seems to work quite well. :-)

        I use the same method for my CD collection. Three groups (Rock, Rock Collections, and Classical), each sorted by performer or composer.
      • Re:Three answers (Score:3, Informative)

        by Doctor Memory (6336)
        Yep, that's what we do at home. We've got some 5500 books, and they're broken down into Fiction and Non-Fiction. Fiction has two walls, and is all alphabetized by author. Non-fiction has one wall, and is categorized by subject. Throw down a rug, plant the futon in the middle, and leave a wake-up call for Spring...

        WARNING: if you move, personally pack the library, or you will spend far more weekends than you would like alphabetizing books (and buying bookcases).
      • We have a barcode scanner, but I'm not sure the best way to use it

        Do these people know how to use a computer???

        Directions for How to Use a Bar Code Scanner:
        • Attach bar code scanner to computer.
        • Turn computer on.
        • Point aformentioned scanner at a bar code
        • Depress the button on the scanner.

        Tips/Warnings

        • DO NOT point the bar code scanner at anyone's eyes.
        • DO NOT attempt to scan your butt... It won't work unless it has a bar code already on it.
        • DO NOT use product in a bath tub..
        • DO NOT use outdoors.
        • Keep away f
    • Re:Three answers (Score:5, Informative)

      by jmilne (121521) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:48AM (#14972490)
      My wife's a librarian, and she would laugh at the idea of using LoC numbers for a collection this small. Dewey's far simpler to figure out mentally for a collection that isn't the size of your local state university's. Heck, for a collection this size, you could go with the standard used book store layout. Just use general catagories and label the shelves so you know what they are. History (maybe break down into Ancient, European, American, etc. if you have a lot of history books), Religion, Science, Math, Art, etc. Fiction could be seperated into genres like Mystery, Fantasy, and Romance, or just organized alphabetically. The beauty is, you probably already know where these books should be catagorized, and you could probably do it all in the span of a few hours. Trying to do anything else, including assigning Dewey call numbers, is going to take a lot more time and effort for not much more benefit.
      • Re:Three answers (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Heian-794 (834234)
        Not sure how this will go over if your library is already in the thousands, but there's one tip I want to share with people who are just getting their libraries started and don't buy more than a few dozen books a year:

        Dispense with this tedious alphabetizing stuff, which will force you to open up space between existing books whenever you muy something new. Just set up some broad categories -- say, one bookcase or shelf per category -- and then add your books to the end of the shelf, as you acquire them. T
  • by StandSure (778854) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:19AM (#14972210)
    Crazy High Tech Solutions pale in comparison to old - school ones. Divide your book cases up Fiction and Non and categorize from there. Put the books most commonly read on easy to reach shelves. My parents have easily that many and don't run into any problems looking for the book they want to read. It is enough to have a vague idea of where the book is, History of Computing - Non Fiction around shelf 3 and call it a day. How do people find books at a bookstore anyhow?
    • How do people find books at a bookstore anyhow?

      You don't. It's really hard. If you know the author and which section it's in it can be done, but I find that finding a book by title, in a large bookstore (Chapters (i'm in canada)) can be quite difficult. Maybe they should have a computer system that tells you where the book is in their store instead of just being hooked up to their website.
  • http://www.tnrdlib.bc.ca/dewey.html [tnrdlib.bc.ca]
    Should cover every thing you need.
    Be sure to print a number under the barcode so you can visually see a book that is out of place. Color coding labels by major subject doesn't hurt either.
    -nB
  • Do what the book stores do, start with the master category (scifi / fantasy, gardening, geek stuff), then break it down by series or sub-category where needed, then by author. Should work for 90%+ of books, and the rest you can fudge.

    My wife has several shelves of her books with different categories in different locations. She also has one shelf dedicated to Anne McCaffrey and one for Mercedes Lackey. I've got all my geek books on one shelf, and my general "to read" pile on another. It works fairly well
  • by RhettR (632157) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:25AM (#14972266)
    I'm actually working on a project that EXACTLY fits your problem. Please check it out at homelibrary [sourceforge.net] at sourceforge. I've only just started the project, it's not very easy to install right now, and there are a few bugs, but I started it with the exact problem in mind.
  • easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eil (82413) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:26AM (#14972270) Homepage Journal
    Do as the librarians do: divide the books into major subjects and then alphabetize by author. If you need to search by something else, Google is your cross-reference.
  • oss4lib (Score:5, Informative)

    by croddy (659025) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:27AM (#14972279)
    There is quite a large amount of open-source software available for library management. A full-blown ILS might be overkill for a personal collection, but I'd suggest checking out Koha [koha.org] and the listings at OSS4Lib [oss4lib.org].
  • Finding books.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onion2k (203094) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:27AM (#14972280) Homepage
    We can't find anything. All the books are in random order.

    Have a catalogue on your computer isn't going to tidy up and organise your bookshelf. SQL queries don't work on shelves. Unfortunately.
    • Actually, with a barcode on a section of shelf, and a barcode on the book, you can leave things in random order and find them very quickly once everything is scanned into the database. I've used warehouse systems like this and they're pretty neat.

      Cheers.
    • Re:Finding books.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mondoz (672060) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:52PM (#14973125)
      Exactly. A program is only be as good as its data.
      Taking and inventory of what you've got, and recording that data would only mask the symptoms of the underlying problem. The real solution is to organize the books, and eliminate the chaotic random scheme you have now.
      With your current setup, your inventory program would be completely dependant on being updated whenever a book is placed on a shelf, which takes discipline for the life of the application.
      Taking the time now to organize the shelves will greatly reduce the amount of work down the road, as long as you put your books back where you found them.
  • Why software? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smoor (961352) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:29AM (#14972301)
    Unless you have a massive reference collection or are checking books out to friends, why bother with software? The solution to your problem is physical organization. Even if you can't have all the books together, you could organize them using LOC or Dewey, or something and label the locations.

    Having to update software everytime you move a book or add a book is just one additional step that doesn't seem to add any value.

    When I was 12 I put all my books into PFS:File on an Apple //e. Printed little labels and everything. Why? Because I was 12 and had time to burn... I never looked at it again.
    • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:37AM (#14972375) Homepage Journal
      The only advantage I can think of is for insurance purposes. You can backup the file offsite, and keep a list of your library to be replaced in case of fire or flood. A simpler way would be to take high re pictures of your bookshelves, which is what I did with my CD collection.

      Really the best way is by author and then google the title or author when doing a search on a subject in a book he thinks he might have on his shelves. Then just find it by the author.
    • There's another good reason: I lend out my books a lot, and I frequently can't remember who borrowed what, or tell by a quick glance at my shelves what I actually own.

      Also, if you make it accessible over the web, you can tell people "I want any book by this author that I don't already have," and they'll be able to look up what you have.
    • I am certain there is some cataloging software available for free, online and off. Some use SQL, some just use some other internal storage system. If you maintain a software catalog, then you also have to be sure that the locations you mark in the program are always updated when a book is moved.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:33AM (#14972334)
    "My wife and I have about 3,500 books. We can't find anything. All the books are in random order."

    Have a couple of kids and you'll find that trivial stuff like this will be the least of your concerns - most of your possessions will be in random places.

    "We want to find a solution for organizing our books. I also want the data in an open format. "

    Dewey decimal system? Maybe one of you should pick up a degree in library science.

    "We have a barcode scanner, but I'm not sure the best way to use it.

    Aim the red light (the "la-ser") at the "zebra stripes" and wait until you hear a beep.

    "What software do other people use to organize their home libraries?"

    Hell, I read books to get a break from computers. I think if I had that many books I'd donate most of them to the local library. I know I don't have time to reread 3,500 books - there's millions more out there I haven't read yet!

    Anything else I can help you with today?

  • by SeeMyNuts! (955740) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:34AM (#14972350)
    Shelf 1: Romance Novels
    Shelf 2: Thermodynamics Textbooks

    With all that steam, you can also use that room as a sauna!

    --
    Nanoscale Woodworking [atributetonuts.com]
  • Use shelves. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by david.given (6740) <dg@cRASPowlark.com minus berry> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:36AM (#14972361) Homepage Journal
    And put the books in alphabetical order.

    It's as easy as that. I have about that many, and I can always find things. My mother has about twice as many, and she can always find things. You don't need high-tech solutions, all you need is a certain level of self-discipline.

    High-tech solutions are also very brittle. If you have to tell the system whenever you take a book off the shelf or put it back on, then you'll lose books, because at some point you will forget, and the system will have an incorrect view of where the book is. Alphabetical ordering doesn't suffer from this nearly as much.

    Plus: alphabetical ordering lets you browse. I don't know about you, but I don't want to figure out what book I want to read next by looking at a database. I want to do it by looking at the shelves, and taking them down, flipping through, looking at the cover, putting them back, etc. That's what books are all about. This is your home, not a warehouse...

    • Re:Use shelves. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by richg74 (650636)
      I agree, I don't think that using a high-tech solution adds much in this case. I have ~3000 books, and I keep them organized on different shelves: technical books in my office, general fiction in the den, cookbooks in the kitchen, and so on. Then I may have subcategories (e.g., mysteries, science fiction) depending on how many books there are. It's easy enough to find a particular title within these smaller groups. I also have more than 1000 sound recordings, which I organize along the same lines.

      This p

  • by nuggetman (242645) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:37AM (#14972378) Homepage
    I'm going to have to echo the "why do you need software?" calls.

    Fiction vs Nonfiction
    Break fiction down into scifi, fantasy, historical, or whatever else applies
    Break nonficiton into computers, biography, history, math, science, etc
    Then alphabetize categories by author, and label your shelves.
    Use some cardboard to make book-sized dividers and write A, B, C, D, etc on them
  • Readerware (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tryfen (216209) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:39AM (#14972401) Homepage
    I use Readerware [readerware.com].

    Spent a couple of evenings scanning in my books, it then went and got all the details from Amazon etc and I ended up with a nice database of all the books.

    It was a bit slack on some of the old and obscure stuff - but if it's in an online bookstore, it will usually pick it up.

    I haven't tried it for CDs or DVDs - I use DVD Profiler [intervocative.com] for that.

    HTH

    T
  • Bits or bytes? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oren (78897) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:46AM (#14972458)
    There are a lot of replies about what software to use to track the books on a PC. That's cool and all, but it is very little help when you have to find a book on the shelves. I happen to own about 1700 books - roughly half the number you have. I think people underestimate the magnitude of the task - assume roughly 1m shelves, 3500 books of 2cm each require 70 shelves - that's over a dozen packed bookcases!

    To keep things sane, I added a colored sticker (yellow in my case) to the spine of each book, marked with the first letters of the author's first and last name. Actually I cheat a bit, there are a very small number of categories I use - cookbooks, references - where I put a category icon instead. I put the books on the shelves ordered by the marker. This is loose enough that I don't have to think too much when returning a book to the library, but tight enough I can easily find anything I want. Another side benefit is that when I visit old friends (or mothers :-), my books immediately stick out amongst the pile of books in their own sizable library.
  • Run magazine used to have type-in listings for cataloging software. This was one of the reasons for buying one of those new fangled computer thingies in the 80s. I suggest you get hold of a C128 and a few select copies of Run magazine. :)

    Failing that, if you've got the space, why not designate a room in your house the library and have nothing but books in it. You can sort books either using known systems, like Deweys, or simply by alphabetical order (yeah, I know, that sucks).

  • by Glog (303500) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:55AM (#14972560)
    Here is the link: http://www.librarything.com/ [librarything.com]. This will help you with the cataloging of the books. As far as organizing, hrmmm, why not organize by color - that's how some women I know would do it :D
  • I have heard of lots of little applications for helping to organize your books and records and such, but I never understood how cataloguing your collection in a computer really helps you find that book in real life.

    You can waste your time scanning in bar codes or typing in book and author names and such, the best way to organize large collections of books is just to take the time stack them alphabetically on shelves. If you find you don't remember what books you have, you have too many books, period. Give
  • I wrestled with this problem for a while myself, and came to two conclusions:

    1) No software currently on the market did exactly what I wanted, and I should write my own.

    2) Having a master list doesn't help in the slightest unless you can organize things without a database.

    I suggest the following order of work:

    1) Work out a category list. Do you want sci-fi and fantasy together? Where are you going to store cookbooks? How about technical manuals, encyclopedias, biographies, or textbooks? You can't mak
  • by himself (66589) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:10PM (#14972705)
    Just use librarything.com.

          Make a free trial account, enter a few ISBNs, and once you're hooked shell out the few dollars for a full account and get rolling.

          Tim that author is adding lots of data import filters and tagging options and other very geeky features, and an actual librarian has joined the project. (I know, I know: it's amazing seeing a non-commercial software service with a real-live subject matter expert! Just goes to show the author's not a real geek: he admitted that someone else's specialized knowledge might not be replaced by his own prejudices and SWAGs.)

          Go, librarything, go!
  • As various astute posters have observed, just having a list on your computer/pda/Windows TabletPC doesn't help you find a book; but it can add to the frustration of "I know I have a copy, but where is it?".

    One solution would be to put an RFID tag in each book, and then scan for them...

    A more /.-friendly solution would be to interface your library software with your RoomBa, so you can sit at your computer, pick a book from your on-line catalog and then have one of your legion of house robots retrieve the

  • You need to take care that they stay in sync with what they describe. It follows the most important thing is to physicall arrange your books. It does not good to be able to find the book in your catalog, but lose it in your house.

    So do what libraries do: adopt a standard system for sorting books onto shelves. You don't need the Dewey Decimal System. I'd say the best thing is KISS: all fiction goes alphabetical by author, then title. Non-fiction goes into groups that make sense for your collection, e.g. I
  • Subject groups (tech, fiction, business, etc)
    topic (programming languages, hardware, databases, discussion)
    subtopic (C, java, perl)
    whatever

    Leave room in each section for additions. Keep sections well separated. Move whole sections at once if you run out of room. Put large books somewhere else with a similar sorting method -- I have a separate shelf with large volumes in the same basic order, but all on the one shelf. I al
  • by markjugg (21992) <mark&summersault,com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:23PM (#14972838) Homepage
    Outsource this task to your local library by donating all but your frequently needed reference books there.

    Then you can easily browse the shelves, use a computerized search search system, or even ask a live person for help. You'll even been able to find books you didn't even own before. All for free!
  • Not only is it extremely capable, it's also beautiful.
  • Place your books on shelves with the spines facing outwards and sorted by name of author. You might also consider a bit of classification beforehand - for example grouping the fiction together and the non-fiction together. If you're really feeling anal you can use the Dewey decimal system to organise your nonfiction.

    There, that wasn't hard was it?

  • Two MySQL databases for handling multiple media types... typically used for lending systems, but can also be used just to manage your catalog.

    DPL (Distributed Library Project) http://www.thoughtcrime.org/software/dlp/ [thoughtcrime.org] or http://sourceforge.net/projects/dlp [sourceforge.net] - This is the software distribution page for the Distributed Library Project, a website which creates a distributed library of people's books, videos, and music. The project is an experiment in creating community and sharing information within a town or c
  • You could just try organizing by subject and author, instead of turning it into a technological fetish.
  • For a library of only 3500 volumes, software isn't the problem. The problem is organizing them on the shelf. (Even a spreadsheet would be adequate software for a library of that size.) You need to number your books.

    I started out with Dewey, but found that in titles where I was overconcentrated (e.g. theology and especially New Testament) Dewey didn't offer enough granularity, plus you have to buy the books to really use it. Instead, I've gone to LC cataloging. This has several advantages:

    1. It's prett
  • If you're going to be using the barcode scanner for the books, set up barcodes for each of your shelves, tape them to the shelf fronting.

    Whenever you or your wife decide to move books around, scan the book, scan the new location. If you put the book back on the same shelf, no problem, no scanning.

    There've got to be some cheap or free inventory management systems available that include this capability, though I'm not familiar with any, since I don't do inventory controls with my library (which explains
  • I know a lot of small libraries use solutions that involve FileMaker Pro. There are barcode generation programs, readers, and pretty much anything else you would need that plug into an FMP solution. Not saying it is necessarily the best, but people have been doing this with FMP for a long time, so the products are mature and full-featured.
  • Appearently this is a problem a lot of people have been thinking about of late.

    Checkout:
    Library Thing [librarything.com] - Catalog your books online
    Listal [listal.com] - Social media cataloging

    Both have tags, social aspects, cool entry, etc, etc.
  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:54PM (#14973141) Homepage

    How will organizing the shelves help when you're in the middle of a bookstore and are wondering if you already own a certain book? I can't remember all several thousand books I own - having a digital reference on my PDA is invaluable.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:05PM (#14973249)
    That's a total no-brainer.
    Delicious Library. [delicious-monster.com] Period. No other Library programm or solution comes even close. It's the companies only product, sells for 40$ and it's a programm that justifies buying a Mac just for the purpose of running it. It's that good.

    It has everything you could wish for and loads more. Among the most notable features are bot's that spider the web (amazon, etc.) for meta info on your books based on the barcode (including grabbing cover-pictures), option to use a webcam as barcode scanner and exports to data formats of your choice.

    Really, looking any further is pointless. DL+Mac Mini+Barcode Reader or Webcam will take you farther than any other solution you could even dream of.
  • by slashname3 (739398) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:11PM (#14973319)
    Separate the books into technical and fiction. Then group the fiction books by author. Group the technical books by subject. Don't make it difficult or cumbersome. Trying to maintain a database of books is not going to let you find them easier. Using barcode readers and other technical solutions will just take more effort and in the end you will still need to organize your books as above.
  • Delicious Library (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vandil X (636030) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:45PM (#14973814)
    Delicious Library is an excellent OSX application for organizing your books, music, games, and movies. It has support for scanning barcodes (even with a web cam).

    I use it, myself, and it's extremely useful.
  • by LanMan04 (790429) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:53PM (#14973911)
    Announcer: "Never before in the history of motion pictures has there been a screen presence so commanding ... so powerful ... so deadly ... He's CONAN THE LIBRARIAN!"

    Library Patron: "Can you tell me where I could find a book on astronomy?"

    Conan: "Don't you know ... THE DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM?!"

    Announcer: "Conan the Librarian..."

    Library Patron: "I'm sorry, these books are a little overdue..."

    Conan: "RAR!"

    **Conan cuts library patron in half with enormous 2-handed sword**

    Announcer: "Conan the Librarian ... Tonight, only on U."
  • Consider expansion (Score:3, Informative)

    by ColoradoAuthor (682295) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @03:16PM (#14974946) Homepage

    If you already have 3500 books, you're probably a collector, not a "tosser" at heart. You need to consider how your system will accommodate future expansion to possibly tens of thousands of books. In no particular order:

    • Will your system be so much work to implement that you eventually give up on it?
    • Will any data you collect migrate to whatever bibliographic/catalogging software you might decide to use in 10, 20, 40 years?
    • How will you handle overflow, when there's a bookcase in front of each wall?
    • Do you need to protect your library from silverfish or other book-destroying pests?
    • Is your house sturdy enough to support all that weight?

    Here are a couple specific strategies that have helped me and my wife:

    • We organize books by rough subject headings. We subdivide once a category gets too big to find what we need.
    • We catalog the books we have read using Endnote (www.endnote.com). We only record the books we've read, to avoid the overwhelming task of dealing with our whole library at once. We use Endnote because it can import info from the Library of Congress (among other places) and because it can export the database in literally thousands of formats, so "the software that comes next" is a non-issue.
    • Overflow goes into boxes. Since we're usually in a hurry when this boxing happens, a good solution has been to take a digital photo of what's in each box; everything isn't catalogged, but it's way quicker to glance through a bunch of pictures than to unstack and open boxes. We invest in super-heavy-duty bankers boxes (available from many online office supply stores)--not the flimsy ones in stock at your typical neighborhood office store.
    • We keep our eyes open for good homes for books we no longer need. I'd rather ship a box of books to, say, a school in a third-world country than to give 'em to the local Friends of the Library, where book dealers will cherry-pick the best ones, then send the rest to either a book sale or a landfill.

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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