Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Oh We Oughtn't to Burn the Library,": Free Cataloging Software

By Zarissa Brewer

There’s one thing every nerd has: a collection. Whether it’s books, DVDs, video games, trading cards, or comic books – it doesn’t matter. What matters? Knowing what stuff you already have so you don’t buy it twice and being able to find it when you want to use it. Some savvy folks may break out their Access or Excel skills, but being smart peoples, why not use the free (or really cheap) software provided by the interwebs? I have several high-tech options as well as low-tech options especially attractive to us low-tech nerds.

Here are five places to get free cataloging software for your collection.

Five Free Collection Cataloging Resources:

Tech Level: Tech-Savvy SQL Buff

Software Type: Online Download
Organizes: Books, DVDs, journals, magazines, music CDs, and video games
Data Format: .CSV
Requires: FreeBSD, Linux, OS X, Solaris, or Windows XP, and PostgreSQL 7.4.xPostgreSQL 8.x, or SQLite 3.x, Qt 4.7.x, or YAZ 4.x

A professional cataloging and library management program, this open-source software uses a Qt 4.x interface and provides connectivity to PostgreSQL and SQLite. Z39.50 protocol retrieves data for the collection items. Five languages are supported, and patron information is provided. Drag-and-drop cover images of items provided by are available while searching the collection. There is also support for requesting unavailable items, reserving items, listing overdue items, and providing patron histories. The displays are customizable and embedded hyperlinks are provided in item records for localized searches of similar items. Views can be exported to CSV files, although there is uniform functionality across various platforms.

This software is technically for small libraries or organizations; however, many nerds I know contain small libraries within their apartments or houses, so I believe it is relevant. This software may be particularly useful for the lending nerd, who has a half-dozen or more items out among friends at a time.

A more detailed review of this software is available here:


Tech Level: Web-surfer
*The software creator has a “pay what you like” link available

Software Type: Online Download or CD download
Organizes: Books
Data Format: XLS, CSV
Requires: Any version of Windows, Mac OS, Linux under Wine on Ubunto 7.10, can be run from memory stick

A simple open-source software program, this catalog allows manual or barcode-scanner (keypress-emulators only) input, and allows imports from the searchable book-list site You can print out all of your book lists in a variety of formats for convenient portability. Lending library features are also provided, letting you add borrowers, multiple copies of an item, and loan out books. There are over 27 included languages, and ample user support by the creator. Not a complicated system, you can edit it to your heart’s desire and adding items other than books should be fine.

Another review of this software is available here:


Tech Level: Web-surfer
*This software is free up to 100 items, the upgrade is $29.95

Software Type: Online Download or CD download
Organizes: Books, movies, music, games, and software
Data Format: N/A
Requires: Windows or Mac OS

Physical items can be added to this catalog by entering the author & title or by scanning ISBNs to automatically download item information and cover images. If you have e-book, audio, or document files, they can be uploaded by scanning your hard-drive. You browse your collection using a List or Images View, search by word, number, or term, and sort it using any field. The database can be uploaded to the iPhone/iPod touch, iPa, and Android using the CLZ Books app, which also lets you use the loan/borrow tracker feature. There is also a batch-edit option which allows for large-scale management of your loans, pick lists, automatically capitalize titles or sort titles, set field defaults, and change field names.
This company sells each category of cataloging software separately, which requires a separate download for each type of collection. They also sell scanners for different types of items, including a scanner app for smartphones, and package the scanners and software together in bundles for discounted large-scale purchases.
A more detailed review of this software is available here:


Tech Level: Web Surfer

Software Type: Webpage based
Organizes: Books, movies, music, games, and software
Data Format: Web page
Requires: Web browser

Not only does GuruLib catalog your collections, it also lets you track who borrows your books, whose books you’re borrowing, watches target prices for items on your wish list, and has a social networking component that allows you to rate your collection, write reviews, and display your collection shelves using Facebook, iGoogle, RSS feeds, and/or Blog widgets. This site will e-mail you a reminder of when your books or movies are due, and you can create, save, and search notes about your collection items or research papers. This website accesses records from over 530 public and university libraries around the world, allowing them inform you if a book or movie you are interested in is available at a nearby public library for free.

Collection entry can be done in five different ways: through a barcode reader or typing in the UPC or ISBN, using a webcam as a barcode reader, keying in the title, author, or keywords, taking a picture of the UPC or barcode using your cell phone and sending it as a picture message to, or putting a picture or multiple barcode pictures in a zip file and uploading that file to the website!

A more detailed review of this website is available here:


Tech Level: Savvy

Software Type: Open-source KDE application
Organizes: Default templates for books, bibliographies, videos, music, video games, coins, stamps, trading cards, comic books, file catalogs, and wines.
Data Format: .XML
Requires: KDE4, Qt4, libxml2, libxslt1

This cataloging software lets you enter your collection in its database using a dialog box as the entry editor. You can use the templates provided for the collections listed above, or create your own user-defined custom fields and collections. Collection item information is imported directly from, IMDb, z39.50 servers, PubMed, SRU servers,, and more! Tellico even imports CDDB data for audio CD cataloging and will scan and import Mp3 or ogg audio file collections as well. Tellico also has translations for over nine languages, and is licensed under the GNU General Public License, which lets you modify and distribute the source code.

A more detailed review of this software is available here:

So, my dear readers - choose or explore as you will. These home cataloging programs technically should make your life more organized and collections easier to sort through. Just don't get stuck in the middle with all your books or games spread out in the middle of the living room floor... let's not play "how many weeks can I step over this pile" with our precious collections, yes?

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