Economy Size Geek - Organizing a Library

“What is a library? It's like Google made out of a tree.”—tevoul on
Remote Options

All the solutions I looked at are downloadable, but it seems a little silly to ignore some of the options available on the Web. I looked at two different on-line options: Shelfari and LibraryThing. It was very easy to add a book on both sites. I also was able to import my list of ISBNs into both sites. On Shelfari, the import happened very quickly. On LibraryThing, it was thrown into a queue, and I was told that it would take up to an hour for the ISBNs to process.

As for sources, LibraryThing supports more than 690 different sources for information. Shelfari did not offer any information source options. Amazon acquired Shelfari in August 2008, so I assume that is where it gets all its data.

Both sites support tags, so I can use that to encode the books' locations.

Because these are both Web sites, they offer advantages and disadvantages. You easily can access the library data from multiple computers. On the other hand, you may not want everyone in the world to know you have every book on Pokemon ever published. Originally, I was concerned any data I put into either site would be locked there, but after some surfing, I found that both sites will provide you with a complete download of your library data.


I had a Shelfari account before I wrote this article. I often use it to create virtual bookshelves to talk about what I'm reading or to recommend a reading list. I thought about moving my collection into it, but I would prefer to work locally before I deal with putting everything on the Internet. After looking at the various options, I decided to start with Alexandria. It was the easiest to use and was best for what I need it to do. Plus, it is built using Ruby (a language I know), so I might have a shot at adding any features I need. As a test, I exported the information I already had put into Shelfari into Alexandria. Then, I was able to export the Alexandria data to both Tellico and GCstar. That means once I collect all the data, I always can switch applications later, which may be essential, as I noticed Alexandria started to slow down with only 400 books in it. Now, I just need to carve out the time to get scanning!

Dirk Elmendorf is cofounder of Rackspace, some-time home-brewer, longtime Linux advocate and even longer-time programmer.



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I'm the creator of the Linux

Brendan's picture

I'm the creator of the Linux wedge for the Microvision Flic. I released a new version today that fixed a race condition (that could result in linebreaks being entered at the wrong place, either before or in the middle of the content of the barcode). It's available from the same URL listed above, and all you have to do to update is replace the FlicServ executable.

I actually created the wedge because I wanted to register all of my books just like the author of this article. I tried lots and lots of different solutions and it took me years until I found open source software that I was satisfied with. I ended up using GStar. The advantages of GStar is that it's ready to use, but one can at the same time customize it greatly if needed. In addition it's written in perl, so it works equally well on Windows (for those sad, sad times when one only has a Windows-box available). Just make sure to back up your libraries from time to time. I once experienced my library becoming completely garbled which resulted in a whole night of manual labor and creating emacs regexps to save my library.