My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

Relevant links:


library software and bibliographic tools

In the post-finals reconstruction of my life, i acquired a new bookshelf and reorganized all of my books into genre-specific clusters that make sense to me. I updated my excel spreadsheet of all books (and where they were lent). I mentioned this to a friend who suggested that i check out Library and now i’m frustrated.

There are so many things that i want a library tool to do for me, but keeping tabs on the purchase price and condition aren’t amongst them. In fact, these categories make me twitch. I’m a hoarder and my conditions are very personal and sentimental (“strawberry stains from best friend’s trip to France” are amongst them). There’s something psychologically tormenting about knowing that a tool could be made to suit my needs, but that it’s not worth the effort of converting from Excel because the actual tool for my purported use provides no advantages (and simultaneously reminds me that i don’t collect games or care about design-driven normative values about books like worth… although i did declare all of my rare books for my renter’s insurance). The secondary frustration is knowing that i could build such a tool for myself, but am too lazy and justify it by telling myself that it’s not a good use of my time or hands.

So, instead i’ll whimper and note my top two feature desires in case i get around to it later or in case anyone else is planning on building such a tool or in case i’m just clueless and don’t know of something else out there.

– Auto-fill from author name and/or title, not ISBN. How many people search Amazon based on ISBN? If i had that information, i would already have done the Amazon search. Make a good guess. And make multiple suggestions. And if you’re wrong, i’m probably just learning about a book that i needed to know about anyhow.

– Let me construct a bibliographic reference from it. The amount of time i spend manually creating bibliographies is horrid. And i never get them right anyhow.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

12 comments to library software and bibliographic tools

  • Liz

    You’re *manually creating bibliographies*?!?

    Oh, girlfriend.

    Get yourself a copy of EndNote. Now. Really.

    (Read the user stories for examples of exactly what you’re talking about.)

  • Or Biblioexpress that also allows you to keep track of journal articles, online references, objects of various types and other goodies. From their website: “ BiblioExpress is a simple reference manager for researchers. It is the freeware edition of our flagship product – Biblioscape. BiblioExpress can be used to collect literature references of different types, to explore bibliographic resources on the Internet, as well as to serve as a free viewer of bibliographic data. BiblioExpress can format records in several popular styles, including ACS, APA, and MLA. BiblioExpress is designed to be small and efficient. You can run BiblioExpress from a floppy disk.

  • Yes – Biblioscape is the commercial version of Biblioexpress ( I am rather obbsessed iwth bibliographic software – probably an attempt to bring order into my life.

    One of the things i like with Biblioscape is that it is not only a stack of cards inserted into the computer. There are some new features here and also a “fresh feel”. Also you can access/change/etc the database through a web interface (and also publish bibligraphies to the rest of the world). And you can link to entries directly from a webpage (if you run the server on your computer). Also (as in many other programs) you can retrieve bibliographic information from internet-based databases (this feature may be better in programs like Endnote though).

  • joe

    Here’s another one for your library, doll… Stanley Milgram’s biography from March 2004:

  • Scott Moore

    I am so glad you posted this! I’ve been wanting a biblographic tool for a while and was hoping to ask for advice but you always seemed so busy. Chalk one up for Synchronysisty.

    danah, please post what you pick and why. I’m still up in the air over EndNote and Biblioscape.

  • Biblio* is Windows-only, but i forget why i didn’t like it on Windows either and went back to Filemaker.

    As for EndNote, why can’t i use it as a Library tool too? Why can’t i mark that i own said article/book in physical/digital form and note who it is lent to? I hate archiving twice. And why doesn’t it fill in the missing info for me by connecting to the Internet?

  • Nancy

    Look at Reference Manager. You can import references from the internet, such as from Melvyl. And yes, you can note that you own it and who you lent it to. You can define a lot of fields of your own and organize/search by them. And it’ll auto-fill from your own authority file, i.e., once you enter boyd, danah as an author, next time you type “bo..” it’ll offer you boyd, danah as a choice.

  • srl

    I’m also interested in what you end up choosing, both for the “loaning media to people” case and the “scholarly reference” case. I could personally use a good uber-media catalog, since I loan books and CDs out on a regular basis. And, well, I’ll be a grad student in the fall; first-years in my program have half their credit load in independent research; and I’m a geek who doesn’t like to do work that a machine can do better.

  • Liz

    danah, you can add custom fields to EndNote for ownership/lending data. Filling in the missing data would be a great idea; what I do now is add books by searching for them in the LC database, and then copying them to my library and adding my custom data.

    Reference Manager is Windows-only, I believe.

  • Matt

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned “Books” yet. It’s a Mac OS X application. I stumbled across it a short while ago, have played around with it some, and am now debating whether to use it to catalog my personal library.

  • Hi dana,

    I use ReaderWare which is a Java based system that rus on Macs, PCs, Linux, etc. Works very well, and the author is very responsive to suggestions…