Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Even Geeks Worry About Their Books

I was checking the news on Slashdot while at work today (I can do this and not get in trouble since I am the resident computer geek) and someone in the "Ask Slashdot" feature asked for advice on solving the home library problem. He's got 3,500 unorganized books and a barcode scanner and wants to know what he should do. There are over 430 comments. Some tell him to get rid of all the books, others suggest various cataloging software and methods of organization. Some of the suggestions are ones only a tech geek would make. At first I was excited that such a question made it onto Slashdot. Now I'm shaking my head and thinking the guy needs more help than is available from reader comments. I mean, how does a person accumulate 3,500 books and not manage to figure out an organizational system? Heck, I had one worked out when I was 12 and had fewer than 100 books to deal with. If you're reading this you probably have a lot of books. Am I right in saying that you have them organized? Perhaps you have a weird system only you know the secret to, but you know where to go to find your copy of Great Expectations or other delightful tome. Because part of the fun of having so many books is spending time organizing them. You get to handle them, peep into them, remember when you read this one or that one, find a favorite passage, find a book you forgot you had and get excited about it all over again. Personally, I find that fiction and nonfiction with each section alphabetized by author works well. I have a couple specialty bookcases (poetry, classics) also in alpha order. As long as it is shelved where it's supposed to be, I've never been unable to find a book. As far as cataloging goes a quick search will turn up more choices than you can shake a stick at. I know Library Thing is popular and I am so tempted, but I am paranoid. What could I be paranoid about you say? I worry that I'd spend all kinds of time getting my books online and then something would happen to the site or the database, and all my hard work would be lost. So I have software on my computer for cataloging. I back it up regularly. And I fantasize about someday having a little handheld computer with my library on it that I can take with me when I go book shopping. Of course, my cataloging software will be so far out of date by the time I ever get a handheld that all my work will have gone for nothing anyway. Maybe I should just go back to the 3x5 cards I used when I was a kid.