You might not know this about me but I’m somewhat obsessive compulsive when it comes to making lists. It’s either OCD or my addictive personality at work, but whatever it is, I have an uncontrollable urge to catalog things. Let me give you a bit of history before getting into the main subject of this post.
On January 23, 2009 my Dell desktop PC gave up the ghost. A week to the day later I mourned the loss of certain valuable bits of information, one of which was the complete bibliographic catalog of my entire library, something that took me a long time to compile and was immeasurably helpful. I was not excited to go through all of my books and re-catalog them (even though I knew that I would be compelled to do so) so it was with great pleasure that six days later I discovered an earlier draft of that catalog on my external hard drive which in combination with a my books received page and a list of purchases from 2008 I had posted on the blog made re-cataloging much less of a chore. Back to the present…
So it was with great pleasure that I read Andy Naselli’s (whom I’ve been mistaken for before) Reformation 21 post “Why You Should Organize Your Personal Theological Library and a Way How.” In the post Andy extols the virtues of the freeware program Zotero which has been recommended to me by a great many people over the past 2-3 years. I’ve considered it but I’ve not taken the plunge because I’ve always wondered how useful it will be to me ultimately. After reading Andy’s post I can see the attraction but I don’t know that it’s that much better than my current system. Back to me…
So the one thing that turned me off to Zotero from reading Andy’s post was that I’d have to essentially re-catalog all of my resources which number in the thousands so the thought of having to re-enter data that I already have recorded is not at all appealing to me. Sure, I’m a compulsive cataloger, but I’ve already done the work, why do it again? So here’s what I do and it works fine for me.
- When I get a new print book I go to my master MS Word document and I enter the bibliographic information (author/editor, title, place of publication, publisher, year). That’s it. When I need to look up something I open the Word doc and search it. When I need to copy a reference I open the Word doc and cut and paste it. Simple right? It really is and it’s quite painless as well.
- For digital books I do very much the same thing. I have a master MS Word document that I enter all the bibliographic information in and when I need to copy the bibliographical info for a footnote or bibliography then I open the file, search it, and copy. Again, it couldn’t be easier. But for some digital books I also have them separated by subject in separate folders on my external hard drive or collections on Logos. So if I need to research something on a certain subject I just go to that folder. Or if I can’t remember what folder something is in I just have to type the author’s last name or part of the book’s title into the search box.
- And this is generally how I locate articles since I have more than I’m willing to catalog at the moment. When I need something I first look in the logical folder that it should be in and if I have problems then I’ll search for the author or title.
It might seem like a bit more work than Zotero but given the fact that I’ve already done all the hard stuff it really isn’t. If I was just getting into cataloging then Zotero seems like something that would be well worth the initial effort, but at this point I don’t know that I’m willing to devote the time to it, maybe one day.