Cataloging Software for Private Collections

At this stage in my book collecting, cataloging has become more critical. Not only would I like to be able to find the physical book I am looking for when I’m at home, but when I away from the collection, I would like to be able to pull up a reference of exactly what I have collected.

A few year ago when I started to collect first editions and antiquarian books more seriously, I created a simple spreadsheet in Google Sheets for keeping track of my acquisitions. This held the basic information about the purchase, and I used the spreadsheet to get an idea of the different themes or areas of collecting that I was moving towards. Because it’s not connected to the books that I collect (and read) more frequently, it stayed out-dated. I would purchase an antiquarian book online, receive the purchase in the mail, leave it packed securely after checking it, then fail to update the spreadsheet because, well, out of sight, out of mind.

This is a very small sample of how disorganized my collection has become at this stage of transition between the old house and the new house. There are book cases, shelves, and barrister bookcases all over the house like this. I would like to set up a system for cataloging before organizing the different collections into something that is more manageable (and better for the books!).

For the books that I have read or am actively reading for my own pleasure, I need something more robust. There are way more of these books, both paperback and hardback in my library. I wanted the ability to scan a bar code of the ISBN when that was available. I have a small number of my full collection on Libib. It quickly became too overwhelming in my current residence (with many books in boxes until we move into the new house) to try and scan or manually enter all of my books. Thinking ahead to the new house and the different shelving spaces available there, I would like to find a software for cataloging that will serve multiple purposes. I found this article on software recommendations from the Fine Books & Collections site, but it’s from a couple of years ago.

Here is what I’m looking for:

  1. ability to hold separate, multiple collections (antiquarian books, fine press books, artistic bindings, regular library, children’s books, reference books for the studio and press)
  2. be able to search within all of them or individually
  3. tagging (maybe this is the way to also designate physical location, such as room and bookshelf?)
  4. scanning of ISBN when available
  5. hold photos of the cover, binding, other pages
  6. space for notes
  7. ability to easily export the data out
  8. online and offline access to the catalogue – preferably an iphone app

I believe a cloud-based solution would work the best so that I could access it online when book hunting away from home. However, I always want to be able to back up and export all of the data I might accumulate in a cataloging system. If I’m going to go to the trouble to create this as a resource, I wouldn’t want to lose all of the time and energy spent building it out.

Any suggestions from librarians or collectors who have grappled with these issues before are more than welcome.

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