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Catalogue card generated by blyberg.net
Created using the Catalogue Card Generator from blyberg.net.

Lynsey and I have made the decision to catalogue our books and thereby join together our extensive personal libraries. Our books are important to each of us and in many ways they connect to the story of our lives.

When I suggested we do this I didn’t realise the enormity of the task ahead. I am reminded of Anne Fadiman’s story Marrying Libraries in her book Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. This short story describes what happened when Anne and her husband finally joined their books together after five years of marriage.

Promising to love each other for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health – even promising to forsake all others – had been no problem, but it was a good thing the Book of Common Prayer didn’t say anything about marrying our libraries and throwing out the duplicates. That would have been a far more solemn vow, one that would probably have caused the wedding to grind to a mortifying halt. We were both writers, and we both invested in our books the kind of emotion most people reserve for their old love letters … Our transfer of books … took about a week. Every night we lined up books on the floor, interlarding mine with his before putting them on the shelves, which meant that for one week we had to hopscotch over hundreds of volumes in order to get from bathroom to kitchen to bedroom. We physically handled – fondled really – every book we owned … As our piles accumulated on the floor, we had several heated debates about not just which books should go together but where they should go … By far the hardest task came towards the end of the week, when we sorted through our duplicates and decided whose to keep … My books and his books had become our books. We were really married.
Source: Extracts from pages 3-9 of Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

I have been researching cataloguing options for a while now in readiness for this day and I was certain of one thing – using a card system was definitely not an option.

Do you remember the days when you went into a library and you had to use a card catalogue to search for books? I can vividly remember the tiny drawers with their cards packed in tightly, and all the people standing in front of them diligently searching for the information they needed. Cataloguing must have been such a labour intensive and time consuming process in those days.

The card catalog was a familiar sight to library users for generations, but it has been effectively replaced by the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). Some still refer to the online catalog as a “card catalog”, but this is incorrect. Some libraries with OPAC access still have card catalogs on site, but these are now strictly a secondary resource and are seldom updated. Many of the libraries that have retained their physical card catalog post a sign advising the last year that the card catalog was updated. Some libraries have eliminated their card catalog in favour of the OPAC for the purpose of saving space for other use, such as additional shelving.
Source: Library Catalog in Wikipedia

Fortunately there are now a number of online applications available which make this entire process so much easier. We have opted for LibraryThing. So today I began the process of creating our LibraryThing catalogue. When Lynsey came home from work he joined me in this task. We worked away for hours and couldn’t believe we had barely made a dent in our collection.

After several hours of intensive effort the database had swelled considerably. Well over 130 books were carefully, lovingly catalogued and tagged … Turning, they looked back at the shelves that had so recently held their collection, and noticed that barely the first shelf had been cleared. ‘Oh good’, they thought, ‘only another five book cases to go’.

Neither was prepared to mention the other books they had hidden. Stashed. Not that they needed to, of course, these books were not an addiction. No. They could give them up at any stage.

One of the most time consuming aspects of this process from my perspective has been deciding the tags for each book.

I had better back to cataloguing!

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One Response to “Day 12: The joining of two libraries”

  1. on 22 Nov 2009 at 9:31 pm Grace Bower

    How did you choose library thing? Which other systems did you consider right up there? how’s it going?

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