Managing a Personal Library

In the grand scheme of collectors, hoarders, and other aficionados, I have a teeny, tiny little collection of electronic books. (The number of print books I own, shamefully, number in the teens.) In the not-so-grand-scheme of my life, I still feel the obsessive need to manage my teeny collection of about 300 e-books or so.

What is involved in the management of a personal library anyway? In a public library, collection management involves budgeting, acquisition, metadata creation, preservation, and weeding. In a personal library, the elements are pretty much the same and for many of functions like tracking, making book lists, and generally fawning over one’s electronic collection, Calibre does the job exceptionally well.


One additional element present with a personal collection that is perhaps less relied upon in a public library is the curator’s/collector’s memory. This is simply due to scale; paid, public librarians know that they will be collecting in the thousands to satisfy as many reading tastes; books aren’t selected on a title-by-title basis; and the librarians have little reason or room to remember any particular book. In contrast, the joys of personal collecting mean that the persons who built those collections do remember individual books and probably have little stories about how those books came into their possession.

Alas, I know from personal experience that we amateur collectors tend to rely on our memory a bit too much. I always figured that although I couldn’t count on being able to simply list all the books I own off the top of my head, when shown a book, I would be able to tell whether I, in fact, own it. (Not whether I’ve read it, but whether I’ve purchased it. Another sore point is that I’m greedy and buy more books than I read.)

That is simply not the case. An oft-known experience for me: “Oh, what, Calibre says that I do have that book?” “Huh? But I don’t remember anything about it.” Oh, the horrors!

What about you? Do you suffer from book-related senility as well? Or are you, in fact, sane?

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