On Building My Personal Library Catalog

HELLO, friends and followers! That was a really aggressive greeting, and I apologize, but I’ve been working diligently on a project about which I want to rant.

A few years ago, I started following and vaguely participating in the Unread Shelf Project on Instagram. This project/challenge was originated by Whitney at The Unread Shelf (both on Instagram and online– fancy!) with the intention of working through owned and unread books. She’s a Missouri girl, just like me, and shares a commonality of wanting to intentionally address those books constantly bought and then abandoned.

This year Whitney has expanded the project to make it more exciting and maybe even more achievable– monthly challenges! For example, the February challenge was to read a gifted book. That’s it. So simple! If you are particularly curious about the details of The Unread Shelf Project, I would encourage you to seek out the project blog, or just read this FAQ section to start out.

“It’s not about numbers (although sometimes knowing your unread number helps) or a lifelong buying ban (unless you really want to). The project is about stepping back from the constant buying of new books and actually reading the books already on our shelves.”

“What is the Unread Shelf Project?”

The project premise is pretty self-explanatory: instead of compulsively buying and throwing new books on your shelves, you take time to read those books you abandoned upon buying previously. This seems easy, right? No. It’s not. Because we live in the age of bookstagram, where new and flashy books are constantly crowding my screen. I have serious book envy, and I’m not exaggerating that. I digress; this is not what the post is supposed to be about.

This project encouraged me to approach my personal library in a different way. Instead of looking at my growing shelves with pride, I started to understand that I might never actually get around to reading the books I carefully selected and purchased and carried home in my canvas tote bag. I was totally horrified and simultaneously motivated. I dutifully logged my unread books in my trusty bullet journal* and tried to read only those books I already owned for approximately… a month? Then I fell off the wagon.

*I decided one year that I would be a bullet journal girl. It was short-lived, and that’s a generous description.

While I did fall away for a brief period, I think I can say with certainty that the Unread Shelf Project drastically changed the way I approached my reading life. When I select my next read, I now address the fact that if I don’t read more books than I buy, I will die without reading all of my bookish babies, and that’s kind of heartbreaking.

Book Buying

I looooove shopping. It’s ingrained in my identity based on the hours I spent shopping with my mother as a child, and because I love books as deeply as I do, book shopping quickly became a favorite pastime. I will say, to my credit, that I am a stingy shopper; the majority of my book buying is thrifting, and the discovery of ThriftBooks and Book Outlet changed everything. I love to look for books on eBay, even, and I recently joined a bunch of used book selling pages on Facebook because I have no self-control. I also love to find books at my local thrift store, probably monthly, and nothing makes me happier than a good old fashioned library book sale.

I really like to buy books.

Books are my favorite thing! Naturally, my shopping addiction would reach into this sector. It’s fine. Except it’s not fine because I definitely do not have all the room these books deserve. Whatever.

Inevitably, I started buying duplicates. Kindle is great because I can check my Kindle library on the mobile app when I see a book I want, but the problem rests in the fact that I frequently see books I want without being aware there is a physical copy ALREADY sitting unread on a shelf at home! This is preposterous, frankly. It’s humiliating. I thus determined that it was essential for me to create a personal library catalog online so that I might better check my inventory without shamefully buying extra copies of books that I don’t even know if I like yet. Yikes.

To be honest, I’m very proud of this creation. It’s not finished because I have probably four totes of books in storage, and I think I would like to document my son’s books, as well. However, it is about as good as it can get for now.

I chose to use Google Sheets because I love Google Apps. When I was teaching, I got really comfortable using them– that hasn’t changed since I started staying home. This is basically Excel for those of you who use Microsoft Office, but I was never very proficient in Excel so I can’t compare them adequately… sorry. I used Awesome Table to insert the Google Sheet into a personal Google Site, which I then linked to in one of my blog pages.* It’s not anything too flashy, but since I am the only one using this it won’t need to be. Woo!

*It’s not that this process is hard, but there are SEVERAL steps. If you are interested in doing this yourself, I would suggest finding a youtube video to explain the process and then reading the step-by-step instructions on Awesome Table.

Not only can I search to see if I own a book, I can also search by keyword, author, genre, or shelf location. I also added the option to see when it entered my library and when (if) it was removed. It makes me feel both extra and organized; I love the illusion of order.

So now, I have no excuses if I buy multiples of one book other than sheer impulse (which is NOT an excuse by any means). If you have created a personal library catalog, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

That’s all for now. Until next time, happy reading!

4 thoughts on “On Building My Personal Library Catalog

  1. Hiyeeeeeee!!!!
    This post made me all kinds of happy because I just discovered The Unreadshelf Project this year and it’s the best thing that ever happened to my physical TBR shelves. Also, I am crazy about lists and spreadsheets and reorganizing my books.
    I am familiar with Google Sheets but not Awesome Table so I will check that out.
    Thanks and happy reading, from your neighbor down south in Arkansas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s a great resource for organization and mindful reading! I’m so happy it was created.

      If you are really curious about making a catalog through Awesome Table and Google Sheets, this is the youtube video I used originally to make the catalog! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X1y1qFGaok

      You can also find a specific page on Awesome Table’s website with the instructions for inserting an Awesome Table in a Google Site!


  2. How impressive! I currently use a spreadsheet to track the books I read so that I can compile reading statistics, but I’ve only logged my own books on goodreads. The nice thing about that is that it’s easy. The goodreads app may generally not be awesome, but it does a very impressive job scanning and identifying book covers! The downside is that I do find it much easier to search a spreadsheet as you described. I really wish goodreads would get a better system for tagging books so we could have the best of both worlds 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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