How to Catalog Your Book Collection

Today’s post is coming to you at the request of my bookish friend Brittany.  After our last shift volunteering at the library book sale, she went home to do the first ever cull of her shelves. My friend was surprised to discover multiple duplicates among her collection. She asked me to do a post on the topic of cataloging one’s home library to hopefully avoid this in the future.

I’m always happy to take requests!


library book sale volunteers
Me and Brittany volunteering at the library book sale bag day


First of all, I consider my home library finely curated, and I STILL have bought duplicates unintentionally. Most often, I’m tricked by different editions of the same book. Or I simply forget I have it, and don’t check my list before I buy. I’m especially guilty of this at the book sale bag day, when they only cost a few cents a piece!

If you’re stuck at home right now thanks to Cornanvirus and social distancing recommendations, here’s a task you can take on that will get you organized and might even be fun! There are many options for this task, so I’ve summarized a few for you here. 


How to Catalog Your Book Collection


Old School Methods:


1. Make a list of all your books. 

This is the most obvious (and old fashioned). It’s probably also the most time consuming. Go through your shelves and write down what you own. Later, you can then type this into a document or spreadsheet that’s easily editable and searchable in the future. When you go book shopping, print your list and take it along. I see a lot of folks with printed lists at the library book sales.


2. Photograph your books. 

This is what I’ve done in advance of the last couple of library book sales. I photographed my shelves. Then when I couldn’t recall if I had the 7th Outlander novel, I was able to check my phone.

This is a great short term solution. But it isn’t editable or searchable.


Technological Methods:

There are a ton of book cataloging apps out there. The basic structure is the same, you use the barcode scanner feature on your phone to scan book’s bar code (or enter titles manually) and they are uploaded into a collection you can organize and visualize all in one spot.

1. Goodreads

If you’re an avid reader and don’t have a Goodreads account yet, you need one NOW. One of the many features it offers users, is the option to create virtual book shelves. This can be done two ways, by manually searching for the book and then marking it as owned and adding to a shelf you create and label Home Library or similar. The other option is to use the Goodreads app to utilize the scanner feature. You can san the bar codes of books on your shelves and they’ll automatically be added to the shelf you designate.

In preparation for this post, I created a Goodreads shelf called Home Library and started scanning my books. It’s super easy and fast. Once the books are on a shelf in your account, it’s easy to move them around and mark them as “Want to Read” or “Read. ”


2. Bookly 

Bookly is an app that allows you to catalog your books and track your reading time. You can scan your books or simply search for them online to add them to the app, from there you can track to whom you lend them, add favorite quotes and thoughts, and see insightful data that can help you improve or read even more. The app is free to download but that version doesn’t allow access to all the features. I tried a paid subscription fro 6 months last year. I enjoyed it but didn’t renew because I didn’t feel it offered me more than Goodreads for how I use the services.


3. Libib

Libib is an online library management service for collections of all sizes. The Standard plan is free, designed for personal libraries it allows you to catalog up to 5,000 titles. You can, search, enter an ISBN/UPC, or import items in bulk from a CSV file and libib automatically retrieves that item’s cover art and all pertinent information. You can create posts, discuss books, and follow your friends.


4. Delicious Library 3

Available for MAC OSX, this is a cataloging program. For $38.99, Delicious Library helps you create a comprehensive inventory, share it with friends, and get holistic recommendations based on your collector profile. Scanning requires you hold barcodes up to your webcam, and items appears on your digital shelves.


5. LibraryThing

From the website: LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth.A free account allows you to catalog up to 200 books. A paid account allows you to catalog any number of books. Paid personal accounts cost $10 for a year or $25 for a lifetime.

I could keep going listing apps, but I don’t want to overwhelm you! The point is, there are lots of options out there for digitally cataloging your books.

I’d love to hear from you about how you keep track of your books. Have any of these apps worked well for you?




  1. Lynn

    March 23, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    I cataloged all my books in Excel, for the same reason – finding duplicates and triplicates of the same book.
    In addition to columns for author and title, I have one for the number of the book if in a series, one for name of series, one each for date read, stars, which book club if applicable, etc. Oh, and one column for where the book is located – I’ve got rooms and nooks etc. where different types of books are homed.
    I’ve always been a spreadsheet user, so this seemed easiest to me. Tabs for fiction, non-fiction, PG Wodehouse, Holmes, etc. I also list the books that I want, so can sort those out for when I’m shopping.
    And, I copy it to my phone, so the whole list is always with me. So, my books are cataloged, and I’m in spreadsheet heaven !

  2. Ramona Mead

    March 24, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    Wow! That sounds awesome and well organized. Thanks for sharing.

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