How to Create a Library Tracking System

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Many people have extensive home libraries, but little idea how to keep them organized. If your idea of a usable home library consists of "throw all the books on a shelf," you may need to consider starting up a home library tracking system. By organizing your shelves and then creating a tracking system, you'll be able to find any book almost immediately, no matter where you have put it in your home. Read on to learn how to create a library tracking system.

Things You'll Need

  • Books
  • Time to organize
  • A computer to create a spreadsheet or database

First, sort the books themselves. Figure out how you want to organize them--and this will depend on what sort of books you have in your collection. Are most of your books fiction? You may want to separate them by genre--mysteries in one section, romance in another, historical fiction somewhere else--but bear in mind that some titles may overlap categories. For instance, J.D. Robb's popular "In Death" series could be romance, but it's also mystery. If you have a lot of non-fiction, you should separate books by category--books on religion, history, language, art or science all go in their own area. Regardless of how you separate your fiction and non-fiction, keep titles by the same author together, and arrange books alphabetically by the author's last name within each section.

Next, give each physical section a name. It can be as simple as saying, "Shelf 1, Row A." If you have books located at more than one site- for example, some of your books are kept at a friend's house, or you keep some in storage, or you have several people who are tracking their books together--then come up with a different name for each site. If some of your books are at your friend Molly's house and others are in your basement, you can categorize a book as being at location "Molly/Shelf 1/Row A," while the others could be classed as "Basement/Shelf 3/Box F" and so forth.

Set up a spreadsheet or database on your computer. If you're interested in having a printed list you can keep in your home library, a spreadsheet will probably work better. If your computer is in your library, and you simply want to be able to locate books on your computer, use a database.

For each book, you'll need to include a minimum of the following information: author's name, title of the book, category and physical location. As an example, if you have the book "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, and it's on the fifth shelf in your living room, your entry would look like this: "Mitchell, Margaret: Gone With the Wind, fiction/LR Shelf Five." If you're really adventurous, you can include other information, such as the book's unique ISBN number, publisher's name, date published, and even a short description of the book. Once you have each book entered in your system, print out a complete list. Keep this someplace handy.

When you need to locate a book, simply find the author or title in your alphabetical list, and then use it to figure out where the book is located in your home library.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are plenty of software systems online that are useful for tracking your home library. With these, users typically just enter in an ISBN number, and the rest of the information is filled in automatically.
  • If you're going to create a library tracking system for home use, be sure to add new books to it as they come in. Whenever you buy a book, don't shelve it until you've added it to your list.
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