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I spent my Sunday reviewing cataloguing software

And it was fun! Well…interesting, is perhaps more accurate. The options out there for cataloguing your private or public collection of books has never been greater, and in speaking with my client I quickly realized how important it would be to nail down exactly what was “valuable” to her in terms of functionality for the catalogue. The options differ widely, from bare-bones “social”, cloud-based software, to a fully-customized database and website with the sole purpose of showcasing and selling the books in the collection. ¬†Since it is impossible for someone, in this case my client, to say what solution she’d prefer without knowing anything about the options, I decided the best course of action would be to outline the basic pros and cons of each option, present that to her, and get her to decide on which she’d prefer based on that information. This gives the client some agency in the process, which is especially important in this case, as I will eventually be leaving and the catalogue will be left with the client to be updated and maintained. I also believe it is impossible to truly understand what a person *really* values (low cost? ease of use? a pretty website? access to buyers?), because, given all of these options, they will of course choose all of them.

I ended up delivering a document with two suggested options, and then briefly going over the existence of a few other solutions, just so that she knew I had considered them, that they exist, and why I didn’t choose them. The two options I went with were:

  1. A custom website and a Microsoft Access database
  2. AbeBooks and HomeBase 3.0

Both of these options are excellent solutions, and I believe my client would be very happy with either, both in the short and long term. While the custom website offers the most flexibility and control, I was surprised at how functional and complete HomeBase is. It’s also free. I also mentioned the existence of a few other options, namely: proprietary and open source ILS’s, cloud-based and social inventory systems like LibraryThing and Goodreads, and a few others. Really nothing came close to suiting the project other than the two options listed above, so that made the choice of what to recommend fairly simple.

In deciding which options to recommend, I had to keep in mind the key goals of the catalogue:¬†inventory of the collection for fair appraisal, allowing collectors from around the world to see the collection, and the ability to sell. The result was recommendations that couldn’t be more different from what I’d choose for a library. I’m still surprised by how different the two worlds (collecting versus circulating and research libraries) are. As I said, the choice was relatively easy, and I’m happy with the results. Now I just have to wait for my client’s final decision, and I can get started on getting the solution going!

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