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Online Personal Book Cataloging

Before recent applications with collaborative web tools, to track your classroom or personal book collection could have been a pain. Most people that I know just don't have a catalog system for their personal collections, and then they often become frustrated. Some times the frustration comes as they look for a book gone missing, they know that they lent it, but they can't remember who to or when. This can be a problem if you went home and then needed to know how many copies of the Yearling you have in your classroom or who has your copy of Gladwell's Tipping Point.

Today there are a number of online resources that you can use to catalog your personal or class collection of books. This kind of online tool will enable you to access information about your collection from any Internet connection. Such an online catalog will also give you access to Collaborative or Social Networks which are based upon an interests in books. These online cataloging sites let you create detailed online book catalogs, learn about the collections of other members, discover shared favorites and swap recommendations. For yourself use these online book catalogs to know what is in your collections, your classroom collection, the books you have at home, and your professional collection.

Online Book Cataloging Services: LibraryThing BookJetty Shelfari Gurulib aNobii GoodReads BookBump








All Consuming:  

Creating your personal book catalog on the web site is relatively easy. With an account with one of the cataloging service providers, you can enter add the book from your collection. Most of the services will also get for you the other information about your book, such as the International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, and a thumbnail image of the cover. One of the services, LibraryThing, even finds and shares the MARC data, such as the book's Dewey number in your personal catalog. Many of the catalogs will also catalog more than books, and can be used to also track video and music collections. These services let you view or print your catalog instantly, sorted by author, title, or by something called a "tag." You are not limited to seeing your personal book catalog as just text, as your collection can be displayed by your book covers or titles for browsing (see Figure).

Figure: Displaying a collection by using the images of the books covers on LibraryThing.

Something different that you can do with these online book cataloging services is that you can add tagging. Tagging is when you add a personal note or key words that people use to help them categorize and remember a book. So with your tags you can add information from the book or other personal notes. Personal tags could include statements like "really scary," “books I’ve loaned out,” or the book's Lexile or reading level. Book based tags could include story elements like "books in Florida" (setting) for Because of Winn Dixie or "Alex Rider" (character) from the book Snakehead from one of the series by Anthony Horowitz. You can then use the tagging concept to identify books that you have loaned out and who and when you loaned them. Then whenever you need you can run a search for your tag, such as borrowed or loaned, and find out which books from your collection are loaned to who and when they were loaned out. With some of the sites the tags then go into and are displayed as a tag cloud. The tag cloud is a display collection of the words that people have used to tag the book, usually with the more popular tags being in a larger print (see Figure 3). Clicking on a tag will usually either lead to the user name of its creator and in turn to that person’s other book choices, or to a list of books that have that tag attached to them.

: Tag cloud for Misty's Twilight by Marguerite Henry on the LibraryThing book catalog.

To add a book to your catalog collection you can either input books by ISDN number, LOC number, title, or author. Just type the information into the search box and press the search button. One quick way to enter your books with some of the sites is to use a bar-code scanner. If you don't have your own barcode scanner ask your librarian if they have a USB barcode scanner that you can borrow. With the barcode reader all you do is go to the adding books page, then point the reader at the UPC barcode on the back or inside cover and then the IDSN information is automatically entered into the search box. Next, the system searches for a match for what you entered and then present you with a list of possibilities. You look over what was presented, usually with the cover image, and then select the book's link. Now that book and its information are then added to your collection. Most of the sites also let you add more information for your book, such as comments and when you read the book. Some of the sites have the ability to upload and/or download your collection information, just in case you want to keep a copy elsewhere.

Figure: Adding a book to your collection.

You can also take the catalog to the next level, using beyond just your own personal use and turning it into a classroom tool or resource that students actively use. One method would be to use the online book catalog as a reading list resource for students, or as a form of book wish list for your classroom. You can also create an account for your class, with you as the account holder. Then integrate the catalog into student classroom activities or they can even use it for their homework. The catalog could be used in class by having your students participate with the catalog in collaborative activities. Students could identify their own personal choices for tags to include, write their own book reviews or booktalks about the selected text. Most of the catalogs also provide a method for book rating, so student could rate the book by using a scoring star system. Many of the sites also provide discussion forum sections. Here students can go online to talk about books with others, creating a form of a virtual book group that meets whenever a student may have time. For homework students could use the book catalog to investigate what others have written, do author studies, or use it as a tool for book selections for literature circles. Students can also use these resources to help them select what they might like to read next, by picking one of the books from the catalog and then seeing what they system recommends that they might like.

(excerpted from an article I wrote for the Florida Reading Quarterly)

On a personal note, in case you couldn't tell, my favorite is LibraryThing. For most classrooms with their allowing the first 200 books cataloged free, should be enough for a classroom collection. Their $25 for lifetime membership allows you to catalog an unlimited number of books and have no advertising. You can visit my LibraryThing catalog at .

For my own account I also use a Barcode Scanner to input my books. You can order such scanners from or other technology or library suppliers.

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Copyright © 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008