Catalog Your Books in Your Personal Library?

To Catalog or Not to Catalog?

That is the question for us bibliophiles. Why is that a question for us? Because we are a diverse lot. We are a stewpot of male, female, everything in between, adventurers, eggheads, bookworms, Renaissance men and women, lovers, haters, spiritual, unspiritual, true believers, atheists, scientists, romantics. You get my point. We have a challenge agreeing on anything . . . except our love of books. But even here, we diverge–our tastes align infrequently. But when they do . . . it’s Nirvana, Happy Hunting Ground, Heaven, or Oblivion–whichever you embrace.

For some, cataloging opposes a dearly held value–freedom. The person who has a perfect memory, has his/her books already cataloged mentally. He knows where every book he ever bought is located. She is aware of the date of purchase, the cost, the conversation at the checkout, and the feel and weight of the volume (perhaps smell too). Others of us–I believe most of us–know we think that maybe we have that book. Sounds familiar. Oh right. I bought four copies because I forgot about the other three. I know they’re here . . . somewhere. And that’s the testimony of a young person. Add forty years to a twenty-year-old and 10,000 volumes over a lifetime, and you might be in the boat I’m in.

I NEED to catalog.

And if you use your books, as I often do, as research assistants, then you definitely need to catalog. Unless you IQ and retention are superhuman–which leaves the rest of us out.

In a modest attempt to unite us toward a consensus then, let’s consider some reasons for or against cataloging your personal library. See, I know you. Some of you are already querying, “Why do we need to ‘unite . . . toward a consensus”?

Because, we may grow. We may be able to move from our own opinion to include the opinion of someone who can simplify our lives and free us of our limitations. Someone who got desperate enough early on to know that libraries catalog for a reason. And I have benefited from that system across my years of education, research, and writing.

Don’t have a personal library? But you want one? Then take a moment to read “How to Build Your Personal Library.” You may want to then read, “How to Arrange Your Personal Library.” Then come back here.

Some Pro’s and Con’s – You Decide


  • Takes too much time
  • I could be reading instead
  • I hate organizing
  • I’d rather not know what I have. I like surprises


  • I know what I have
  • I can easily access the information I need
  • I like order and harmony
  • If I want to lay my hands on a book, I know exactly where it is
  • I want to know where I bought it, when, how much I paid, etc.
  • I can do book lists in an instant

3 Resources I’ve Found Helpful

  •  a little technical for me. I prefer user-friendly. Also, I could not find a mobile app that worked properly.
  • – costs money, but a good system. I used it for years. Stopped using it because every upgrade cost money and I could only access my books if I had my computer wtih me.
  • – FREE and easy to use. Lacks some bells & whistles, but I’m sure they’ll show up soon enough. In addition, the mobile app is excellent, easy to use and access, and user-friendly.

QUESTION: Do you catalog your personal library? What software or site have you found helpful?

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