July 2004

Michael Farrelly

library rakehell

Create Your Own Library... Sorta

Sooner of later, every true bibliophile will have the idea cross his or her mind. How can I make my shelves and shelves of books into an organized library? It sounds like a daunting task involving hundreds of man-hours, expensive software and more patience than Job on a bright and sunny day. However, that’s not the case at all. With a little preparation, a bit of free time and some creativity you can organize your materials into a professional collection that will make your book-savvy friends swoon. All right, they may not swoon, but they will be filled with envy.

Step One: Materials

-Packing Tape/Book Tape
-Mailing or multi-use labels
-A Computer with a spread-sheet program and label template and Internet access

Packing tape is somewhat easier to come by than book-tape and is just as sticky and reliable. The standard for labels is Avery and most word-processing programs will provide you with label templates. How many labels you need and how many rolls of tape depend on the size of your collection. For each book, you have you need at least 1 label and about 2 inches of tape.

Step Two: Creating your catalog.

True cataloging is more of an art than a science. Every digit and letter in a catalog number has a specific value, a special purpose and a list of rules that govern him or her. Catalogers are some of the most sought after and diligent information scientists out there. You don’t have to work that hard.

The free and easy way to catalog your collection is to get the call numbers from an online catalog. For my personal library, I mainly used the Los Angeles Public Library catalog. Plug in the title or author of a book and in seconds you will retrieve the call number.

In your spreadsheet program, you’ll need at least three columns. Title, author and call number will be sufficient for most people, but if you want to get all kinds of fancy you can have columns for publisher, year of publication or even personal rating. You can print this catalogue out later on or just keep it as a searchable electronic resource.

Step Three: Processing your books.

While you’re going through your collection to catalog, you will also want to do some processing on your materials. This is where your labels and tape come in. Copy the call number of the book onto a label (a Luddite note: you can do this by hand) and then apply the label to the spine of the book. Then tape over the label and press down hard on the tape.

Step Four: Further reading.

In case you don’t know, works of fiction you need only catalogue by the last name, first name of the author (Example: GORE, VIDAL). Also, some stranger items may require some creative cataloguing. Don’t view this as a challenge; rather see it as a chance to get creative. In my collection there are some role-playing books that I could not find catalogue information for, so I decided to create my own system which incorporated the game system name (Example: Vampire the Masquerade became VTM) and a volume number.

Graphic novels can be a tricky one too. Some libraries classify them under art books (741 in Dewey) while others consider them fiction but add a GN before the author’s last name. Adding a personal touch to a collection on makes the whole project more fun.

You can buy kits at booksellers and office supply stores to create personalized ink stamps (Ex Libris, The Farrelly Library, or my favorite “This book stolen from” and then your name) to make your books if you like, but that’s just a question of how much gilding you like on your lily.

So there you have it, quick and dirty copy cataloging and book processing.