cataloguing books

A service has emerged called LibraryThing. For free, you can list up to 200 titles from your own private library. For a fee, you can join the site and list as many books as you like – from your library, your wishlist, ones you want to read but not own etc.

Apart from the fact that I cannot imagine having enough free time to do such a thing with all the titles I feel those various things about, I find that a combination of my wishlist (woohoo, sneaky ploy) and my wonderful memory does a good enough job of a) keeping track of the books I want to own, b) keeping track of the books I want to read and c) what I thought of the books I have read.

Another tool I used was the Toronto Public Library’s online My List. I mistakenly trusted this tool to retain the information I entered into it, and therefore moved a whole whack of titles from my wishlist (those I did not wish to purchase, but wanted to read at some point). Much to my dismay months later, when I tried to retrieve the list, I saw it was blank.

Horrified at having lost a huge chunk of my reading list, and unable to remember most of the titles, I fired off an angry email to tech support at the TPL. They kindly informed me that no, their servers do not retain those lists after a certain (short) period of time (I think two weeks) and do not retain backups either. My reply informed them that they should consider their users and either retain that information or inform users that the information will be discarded within that time frame. In this day of information architecture, I’m actually surprised that such a terrible mistake was made on the part of the developers of the system. In fact, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

In any case, what I have recently found effective is to enter the book I want to read into the library’s holds system, and place a hold on it. I don’t mind that I end up in a queue of sometimes up to 600 people. I’ll wait that long, because I don’t have time to read 15 books at the same time, and it’s kind of fun to wait and see when it’ll pop up (this was actually recently mentioned on BlogTo).

It’s fairly good. But I’m finding that, that added to the books I purchase and the ones I get occasionally (more frequently these days) through work for free (I work in the publishing industry, though not at a publishing company), that my pile of “books to read” is getting awfully high. And not necessarily with books I want to keep either (those free ones…).

I’ve been trying to get rid of the ones I’ve read and don’t wish to keep, but it’s difficult. And that, my friends, is a rant for another day, so I’ll wrap this up by saying – stick to your wishlist, and hey, if you happen to have a cool online library system with a holds feature, then totally use it when you don’t think you want to own a book forever. In fact, I’m going to start using it to test-drive any book, then buy really nice copies of the ones I enjoyed for my own library. Except for Charles Dickens. I’ll buy any of his without having read them first.







  1. bunnyhero Avatar

    i HATE the library computer system. that book list has burned everyone i know who has tried it.

    on the other hand, being about to make any hold ‘inactive’ is really nice. i often have a huge hold list, but make most of them inactive so they don’t pop up when i’m not ready for them.

    and like you, my “to read” list is way too long 🙁

  2. Christina Avatar

    That’s a great tip about putting the holds on inactive! That’ll work a whole lot better for me as I’ve just had three come up at the same time and now I have to read ’em really fast… or something… I’ll just keep renewing them 😉

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