Why and how I catalog my books

Why I do it

Everyone uses some type of method for tracking the books they read.  Many, myself included, use Goodreads.com, a great website that allows users to not only track their reading, but also set reading goals for the year, discuss books with other readers, enter giveaways, and more!  However, simply tracking my reading is not enough for me, I also wanted to track the books in my collection.  A few years ago, 2011 I believe, I started this small project.  It was daunting at first because I was starting from scratch and at the time already had over 200 books.  I was not just cataloging my regular reading books, I was also cataloging my Judaic books, dictionaries, manga, and comics.  However, those collections of mine have not grown as much so I no longer catalog those, if anything, I will merge the manga and comics in with my regular books.  This catalog that I have created is also a great way to sort and organize my books according to the information that I put in.  I can then use this to organize the books on my shelves easily and to my liking.

How I do it

Now for the details.  I use Microsoft Excel to create this catalog.  For me, Excel is easy to use and an easy way to organize and collect information.  I take a lot of information from each book for this catalog, the obvious ones such as title, author, name of series and number in series (unless it’s a standalone book), original copyright year, page count, and publishing company. I also take note of other information, such as the ISBN number, whether I have read the book or if it is a TBR (to be read) book, the cover (hardcover, paperback, or leather-bound), the year I read it, and if it is a new or used book.  Unfortunately, I do not have the year read recorded for every book that I have read, simply because I don’t know exactly what year I read books when I was younger (though I could probably figure out some of them based on what grade in school I read them in).  There is one other piece of information that I use, what I have dubbed as “Call #” (more on this later).  Here is a small piece of what my spread sheet looks like:

As you can see, the books are not organized strictly by author, but by the “Shelf Status,” “TBR” followed by “Read”.  I organize them this way on my shelves so I can see exactly how large my TBR pile is.  As I read books, I change their Shelf Status from “TBR” to “Read” and then move them to their proper places on the physical shelves.

Call Numbers

I created the call numbers after taking my cataloging class for my masters program.  Partially because it was kind of fun creating them, but mostly as a way to quickly organize the books by author, and series/book title within the my excel sheet.  I created the call numbers based on the author’s last name and using the Cutter Number generator for Library of Congress found here.  The next part of the call number is the first word of the title of the book, or the title of the series, again using the Cutter Number style.  If the book in question is a standalone book, the call number ends there.  For books in a series, after the series title portion, I include the number in the series that book occurs in.  Another aspect included in these call numbers that I have created is the amount of copies of a single title that I own.  If I own more than one copy of a title, the first copy that came in to my possession gets a “C1” at the end of its call number, the next copy gets “C2,” and so on.  This is easily illustrated in my listings for my Harry Potter books.  

Using my Philosopher’s Stone edition as an example, the call number starts with “R69” as the Cutter Number format for Rowling’s name, “H37” as the cutter number for “Harry Potter,” the name of the series, followed by a “1” for being the first book in the series, followed by “C5” for this particular copy being my 5th copy of the first book in the series.  So the full Call Number is “R69.H37.1.C5.” 

In the case of a book having more than one author, I will either use pick the author who would come first alphabetically, or in some instances, the more prominent author.  

Library Books

This past year I started to make use of the public library where I work in order to help with the books I needed for one of my classes.  As such, I also created a page in my Excel document to track the books that I borrow and read from the library.   The information that I include in this page is almost the same as the information I use for the books that I own, but I also include the library that the book comes from as well as the Call Number that library uses.  This library page is kept separate from the books that I own.


This is one of my favorite aspects of my spread sheet, the stats page.  This is where all of the information comes together.  On this page I take the copy right years, page counts, shelf status, condition, cover, and my yearly reading challenge, and have them set up in tables and charts.  Originally, I had to input this information manually as I was entering books in to the Excel sheet, but thanks to some Excel magic, the data tables update automatically.  To do so, I make use of the “CountIf” feature in Excel.  The stats page incorporates the information from both the books that I own page and the page of books that I have taken out from libraries.

And this is how I do it.  A little crazy? Maybe.  But it’s what I do for my books.  You can take a look at a version of my spreadsheet here.

2 thoughts on “Why and how I catalog my books

  1. Pingback: Why and How I Catalog My Books (Redux) – A Bibliophile Life

  2. Pingback: How I Catalog My Books (Redux) – A Bibliophile Life

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