Book/Library database software

I have a lot of books. I know an old priest who has even more.  A LOT more. One of these days his library will have to be cataloged.

What am I saying… MINE has to be cataloged!

Does anyone out there have experience with small library software? Scanning? Strategies?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    You might want to try Resource Mate ( We got it for our small school, and it works well!

  2. dmwallace says:

    With Booxter ( you can scan the book’s bar code label using your webcam or other similar device and the software accesses the Library of Congress catalogue to sort your collection. It is only available for Mac.

  3. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, I have done a great deal of scanning, but have no experience with small library software. In scanning, there are multiple issues. The tooth of the paper, contrast on the page, face and size of the font all affect the results. With all of the scanners and software I have used, a good deal of human intervention is required, unless it is your wish simply to scan page images for preservation. With OCR, which allows for much less storage consumed, the issues I raised above are all active. Moreover, inclusion of features such as sidebars and footnotes will complicate the task.

    If you decide to scan images for storage, then I suggest using JPG and doing some experiments to find what level of compression is most satisfactory.

  4. I use I bought a lifetime membership for about $25 several years ago. You can get a free account and catalog a few hundred books to check it out. The sell a scanner that’ll read barcodes. I’ve been happy with the site, but disappointed in their implementation (or lack of) of mobile apps. Caveat: I found out after I joined that they are a rather progressive lot who run it. That really does not affect my use of the site. It might have given me pause before joining, had I known.

  5. MikeM says:

    I use Delicious2. It’s adequate and relatively inexpensive. You can scan barcodes if you have a built in camera (or you can buy a scanner… but that’s kind of pricey.) It collects all the data about your books from Amazon. You can also search by ISBN, title, etc. If you have some old books that have been out of print for awhile, you might not be able to find them, but you can enter in the information yourself.

    You can separate things out into different shelves and different libraries. You can also catalogue movies, albums, and other kinds of media.

    I’m sure there are more robust programs out there, but Delicious2 is cheap and straightforward.

    I tested out a few others while settling on one to purchase. If you know what kind of features you need, I might be able to help a little more.

  6. wmeyer says:

    I see I misconstrued the purpose of scanning in your request. As to bar codes, I suspect for what may be in your library, you may more often use the ISBN.

  7. RichardT says:

    I would also like to hear of an easy way to catalogue my books; I’ve already had to switch insurance companies, because the old company demanded a full catalogue before they would cover them.

    The other problem is that most of mine are pre-barcode, so I suspect it’s going to be a long, manual job.

  8. RichardT says:

    I’ve just looked at librarything. There’s someone with a catalogue of over 45,000 books, and there are over 50 people with 12,000 to 24,000. Makes my 3,000-ish look tiny.

  9. curtjester says:

    There are a variety of online sites that include the ability to scan barcodes. I use a variety of tools to catalog my extensive book collection.

    1. does a good job for cataloging, creating a wish list, and including social networking aspects. Plus there is a fairly large Catholic audience on goodreads. All of the online sites also provide ways to import and export your book collection.

    2. When I was using Windows I never found a book cataloguing program with all the features I wanted. On the Mac though Bookpedia does everything I want including scanning via a dedicated scanner or the iSight camera. It even has extensive reporting features. Another commenter recommended Delicious Library also for the Mac, this is also a very good program, but I give the edge to Bookpedia for functionality. I know Mac solutions aren’t helpful for you, but they might be to another reader.

  10. david andrew says:

    I too have a not unsubstantial library of books, hymnals and music scores (organ, piano and choral). My insurance company also refused to give me a rider for them until I presented them with an exhaustive catalog of my entire collection.

    I thought I’d just use Access to develop a database, but quickly discovered that this is impractical.

    Many of the books I have are older and therefore have no barcode or ISBN number.

    So, I’m also looking for a practical, pre-packaged software program that will permit me to catalog my collection.

    I’ll be following this thread with great interest!

  11. Dave N. says:

    Everyone one I know that wants to catalog their books uses for this purpose.

  12. basenji says:

    For when you get your Mac, I second the mention of Bookpedia.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    How small is your library? I was the assistant librarian in a college library for 18 months and we switched software from small to larger library size. The software really depends on how many books one has. As to scanning, this can be done easily with many of the software packages. It is a common procedure. One can also hire a computer geek to set up a system just for you. I know college students who have done this. Not only does this save you a lot of money, as the software is pricey, but you get exactly what you want-such as title first, author first, subject first, cross referencing, ISBN referencing, Dewey, or whatever scheme you decide upon. I highly suggest hiring someone who will set up a system for you rather than buying one. Scanners can be built by a clever computer guy (or gal).

  14. Charles E Flynn says:

    I know you cannot use Booxter because you do not have a Macintosh, but try to find a program written by a developer who knows what a MARC record is, and who can retrieve Library of Congress subject headings from the Library of Congress.

    A program that simply collects data from Amazon is not suitable for a scholar. Also, try to find a program that can back fill missing attributes in records automatically. Often, there are not detailed LC subject headings for new books, and the records are improved later.

    It amazes me that none of the programs I have seen have a field for the width of a book, and a means of summing up the widths, so you can see approximately how much shelf space is required.

  15. PeterK says:

    Like others I highly recommend one of the best parts is that is pulls in cataloging data from over 700 libraries from around the world. was very helpful when I was adding books I purchased in Slovakia and Hungary several years ago. you can also organize your books by collections eg by room. also since it is in the cloud you can bookmark in your smartphone browser, then when you are in a bookstore you can check to see if the book you are looking at is already in your library or not. You can also add to a wishlist. as helped greatly when I’m in a used bookstore and I want to find out if the book is in my library. It will also compare your library to others so you can see who has similar books.

  16. PeterK says:

    forgot one thing you can also export your library from librarything as a csv file

  17. Fr. Z. I highly recommend going to and downloading the trial version of their book database. I use the comic version and it is awesome. They also have scanning capability for barcode which can either be done with your smartphone camera or an add-on USB device. They also have Mac versions.

  18. ray from mn says:

    The ISBN numbers/bar codes were not adopted until about 1972. A very good religious/history/philosophy book collection will contain a large number of books printed before that time.

    One of the weaknesses/assets of the copyright system is that you cannot copyright the title of a book (If you want to write another “Gone With The Wind”, or “War And Peace”, go ahead; you may).

    If you had full access to the Library of Congress, the NYPL or the British Library catalogs, you still would have to examine each entry carefully to make sure that you have selected the correct book number, authors, dates, publishers, etc.

  19. mike cliffson says:

    It takes a lot longer than you´d think.

  20. Bob says:

    I use BookDB2 which is free. It does have the capability to use a scanner, but I’ve been manually entering the information.

  21. plaf26 says:

    I was also going to suggest I’ve used their movie cataloguing software, although I haven’t kept it up to date.

  22. Hidden One says:

    Ad Omnes

    Beware re:Library of Congress.

    I have experience working in a Catholic library focused on texts of philosophy and theology. I was involved in classifying new titles. The Library of Congress no longer consistently catalogues religious books according to its own system for classifying them. This was the bane of my existence as a librarian-in-training. Many times I had to use their own guide material to re-classify books that they themselves had mis-classified. (For those at all familiar with the system: the normal problem is that BT, BR, and especially BV books are frequently mis-classified as BX these days. Never trust a Library of Congress classification of BX whatever until you’ve really looked at the book and what it’s about. Pay attention for awhile and you’ll learn the usual specific mistakes.)

    Alas, I don’t remember what the ancient software we used is called… but I do remember how to use it!

  23. Titus says:

    +1 for

  24. Muzhik says:

    I like Readerware ( You can search and catalog using the ISBN, author, title, etc. and have it search a number of online databases to find the correct work. It also has optional modules to catalog your video and music collections.

  25. mpolo says:

    I would suggest Open Biblio . It is free and available for most languages, computer systems and the like.

  26. jeffreyquick says:

    I’m a library paraprofessional, music specialist, and I found Library Thing woefully inadequate, especially for media. Library catalogs live and die by authority control (in layman speak, every book by the same author is catalogued under exactly the same form of name… ditto for the titles of your musical works.) If you can’t retrieve by uniform title or established subject headings, it probably isn’t worth the bother of cataloging. I’ll check out some of the other suggestions here, because I’m looking too.

  27. GeekLady says:

    If you have a large library without barcodes, I think a program that offers a GraceNote style metadata download for a book by ISBN is probably your best bet. Also, you might consider a program that lets you ‘check out’ books to people.

    As far as the archival scanning of images goes, DO NOT EVER USE JPEG. Period. Use a lossless format, like TIFF. There are others, but TIFF is the one I’m familiar with. JPEG loses quality every time it’s edited and saved. The only advantage of JPEG is a smaller file size, and I think that advantage is removed by the need to duplicate a jpeg before you do any editing, like cropping or straightening the image.

  28. Amerikaner says:

    If you have a lot of books and have a spare machine, consider this open source item –

  29. Scitoviasdomini says:

    I’ll add another vote for (see my Library: But a word of caution: the default importer for data is Amazon, for despite the corruptions in their data, it often casts the widest net. With a few minutes of clicking, you can customize your “Add Books” screen to pull from literally hundreds of top American and international university libraries (including the BL, the Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund, and several decent [but helter-skelter] Italian libraries); be sure to default to “OverCat”, which operates as a metadatabase of Library of Congress and many good university libraries, including a full dump from Boston College’s catalogue.

    Also if interest are their “Legacy Libraries”, where they’ve use public (and some archival) records of historical libraries to assemble catalogues for a wide array of historical men and women, including Jean, Duc de Berry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and of course, C. S. Lewis.

    Happy cataloguing! (And I’ll be sure to mark yours as an “Interesting Library” after you get started!)

  30. campusdan says:

    Fr. Z, I have over 1500 books myself and they are mostly catholic in nature. I had a friend show me an online database that is really nice for having your books catalogued and which I use myself:

    And I would also recommend it to others on here that are looking to catalogue your libraries.
    I like it too because you don’t need to do to0 much in order to get them catalogued, you can just enter the title or author or isbn number and it will pop up, usually in the case of rare books you might have to enter the book yourself but that will make it available to all those who are members on the site. I would highly recommend for those to at least check it out and see how it compares to what you are using now. And if anyone wants to look me up on there just look up “Campusdan” and you can see my library. Hope this helps, from one ecclesial nerd to another, Pax Christi

  31. Ttony says:

    I had a lot of problems with collectorz – maybe it’s a not-in-America thing, but I ended up significantly out of pocket with a scanner that doesn’t work and a database I can no longer access. Of course, YMMV, as is obviously the case with the people posting above.

  32. Martial Artist says:

    david andrew,

    A curious Access programmer wants to know: Why did you find MS Access impractical? Was there some particular functionality you needed that was too difficult (or not possible) to implement?


    Keith Töpfer

  33. R_Aleixo says:

    Well Father…I use Resource Mate for cataloguing my personal library and find it most effective for my needs. I had looked around and investigated a number of possibilities but settled on Resource Mate for the following reasons.

    1. Professional looking and easy to use cataloguing software

    2. Can use the ISBN scanner (need to buy the scanner tool) – though this is useless if your library like mine is comprised largely of books published prior to the 1970’s

    3. Cost was under $200 for the Regular edition (they have a free trail at their website)

    4. Import full cataloguing data from the Library of Congress web site…an incredible time-saver! – you can also select an import from your select list of select institutional libraries – I did this as the bulk of my library is comprised of rare and out of print catholic books

    5. Permits unlimited subjects or keywords per item

    6. Add your own user-defined fields to customize the program to your own situation

    7. Prints cards and labels for those libraries with card catalogues or if you would like to have your own – also has a huge list of other reports that you can generate like those for insurance purposes

    8. Comes with 3 free months of technical support upon registration – thereafter there is an annual fee to use this service, though optional and not necessary

  34. Fr: Are you looking for a catalog that you (or others) can access on the road and how is it stored – web portal, secure server, networked database? And how are you defining catalog: searchable titles, subject, index, TOC only or are you looking for that AND full or partial text of the material itself?

    Most of the people on this thread assumed when you meant scanners you were talking about scanning a bar code into a system (which is useful, but I think really only if you need to track the physical location like a catalog of multiple priest’s libraries with a check-out system and location finder) but a lot of people these days want full or partial text of content as well.

    There are commercial vendors that have existing catalog software that may be customized (not always cheaply) for Windows or Mac. Inmagic is a popular one. SydneyPLUS (a company out of British Columbia) has a good product.

    Another consideration, as I think I know the priest with the huge collection you are referring to, the glue on the back of labels and bar codes devalues and is often harmful to rare, fragile works and it does not always remove without chemicals. A work around in some rare book collections is to insert a separate non-acid paper into the book and that paper has the bar code but be careful as that can still degrade or be harmful and, obviously, it can fall out. Also, the scanner lamp (even if using a handheld wand) can be harmful to paper. Trying to push a book with a fragile spine onto a flatbed scanner damages the binding.

    You’ll want, for such a large collection, an agreed upon control language (speaking of language -which language: Latin?) for subject headings otherwise no one will be able to find anything -whether you define it yourself or use existing: LOC, Vatican… and a classification system. I would not recommend Dewey (lol) – but, really, I wouldn’t.

    My .002 of librarian/archivist information….

  35. What I really want to do is make a list of everything for insurance purposes, my own opportune knowledge, to cull out what I can get rid of, to help me find it more easily by indicating where it is, etc.

  36. eiggam says:

    We are using Resourcemate for a library with 3000 books entered so far. It allows for Library of Congress or Dewey cataloging. There are many reports built into the program, but if you want to tweak the reports, it can be difficult if you don’t know visual basic. We are supplementing our entries with WorldCat, especially for older books that don’t have ISBN. For books with ISBN numbers, the database will populate entries. The Internet options work only if you pay for support at about $85/year. The online support is good, but only available during the day. The program is from Canada and the free demo showcases features very well. Both of the local parish libraries are using it also.

  37. Fr: Given what you just said you could build a searchable database in MS Access with a reporting function for your insurance co based upon queries you set up or just print a straight list out of it. Forget the scanning or remote access – it would be housed on your PC or Server. I can’t see then a need for scanning or bar codes – you could have a field in your database with location info. You could have fields in the database for whatever you wanted. The time, though, will be setting up the database, testing it and then manually entering everything.

  38. j says:

    Endnote doesn’t automatically categorize, but you can download a library from public sources, then copy and paste your individual book files into your “personal” library. Advantage is that unless the book is rare, a sample file can be found easily, even pre-ISBN

  39. historyb says:

    Here is one

    Summary of BiblioteQ’s features:

    Free and Open Source technology.
    Cataloging of books, dvds, journals, magazines, music cds, and video games.
    Internationalization (translation) support. BiblioteQ currently supports the Czech, Dutch, English, German, and Greek languages.
    Patron information.
    Rich search capabilities, including custom SQL queries.
    Cover images with drag and drop support.
    PostgreSQL accounts with various privileges.
    Administrator roles.
    True PostgreSQL and SQLite pagination.
    Transactional database queries.
    Threaded data retrieval via the standard Z39.50 protocol for books, journals, and magazines.
    Print support.
    Support for requesting unavailable items.
    Item reservation.
    Listings of overdue items, requested items, and reserved items.
    Customizable item data, pricing information, and currencies.
    Item reservation histories for patrons.
    Customizable displays.
    Embedded hyperlinks for localized searches of similar items.
    Front cover image retrieval via Amazon.
    Uniform functionality across various platforms.
    Support for multiple Z39.50 sites.
    Exporting of views to CSV files.

  40. RichardT says:

    Cathy_of_Alex (8:13 pm) – typing thousands of book titles and authors into an Access database would take a huge amount of time.

    The point of the programmes being suggested is that you can just type in an ISBN number (or, even quicker, scan a barcode) and the rest is done automatically.

    But, as someone pointed out, that only helps for books that are printed recently enough to have an ISBN number. I hadn’t realised how recently that was.

  41. Given what you said you need, I still think LibraryThing would be best — you could even use the default Amazon data, since that would link you to “replacement value” for insurance purposes. Also, LibraryThing will be much faster than building an Access database because of the speed and simplicity with which it generates records.

  42. Ken.Hendrickson says:

    I catalog my library with the US Library of Congress system. I have only about 20 books which I cannot find either in the Library of Congress, or some university library. I can easily look up books in the online card catalogs. For the few books for which I cannot find a number, I can guess fairly well by searching for the same subject matter and following the rules as to how to make the number.

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