Ask the grumpies: Systems to catalogue books? Thoughts on endnote vs. librarything?

Lisa asks:

I was going to ask you and your readers [ed:  emphasis added] for recommendations on book catalogue systems, but then I saw your Library Thing icon and I read your very positive thoughts on that. I also see a brief reference to Endnote, so assume that you use Endnote for research.

Can you share your thoughts on the two different systems? I want to start a book catalogue for non-fiction books and texts, mainly based on my reading list so I have a central system for compiling book information (eg reviews, quotes, recommendations, “to buy”, “to borrow”, summaries, quotes etc etc). If I was to go into academic research (a possibility in a few years time), it is likely that I would use endnote for “real” research. At the moment I need something to manage my non-fiction reading list and “hobby research” which currently is a hodgepodge of messy notes, lists and links. I want to invest my time into a good catalogue system, but unsure if Library Thing is sufficient, or if I should take it a step further and look at Endnote. I can get a discount version of Endnote through my uni alumni, so cost is not a deciding factor. My preference is always just to use one system, but I am unsure if I am trying to force one system to do two different things (ie use Endnote as a book catalogue system, or use Library Thing for storing notes and quotes etc).

Can you compare Library Thing and Endnote? How you use each of them? How much cross-over is there? Would there be any scenario where you would recommend just using Endnote, ie for someone starting out with their book catalogue and notation systems? At what point do you prefer to segregate your work research and personal research systems?

also interested in your reader’s thoughts … particularly any librarians out there (I am in a regional area, otherwise I would be hassling the librarians in the city about this)

Also just out of curiosity, does anyone know what systems Journalists use for this sort of thing? I am not planning to become a journalist, but I am wondering if what I want to do is similar to what some journalists might do to keep track of their source information and ideas etc.

(I am not going to catalogue fiction books and I assume that Library Thing would be the best product for that scenario).

#1 says:
We’re glad you asked! To take the last question first, we have no idea what journalists do, but maybe someone in the comments will!

Other thoughts:
https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/c.php?g=423116&p=3851803

I think you might want two solutions for this.

For fiction and non-fiction books that I have for my own use, I love LibraryThing. Their cataloging setup works for me and I like its display options. The books I have for ‘professional’ purposes are in there too, although in my field we don’t use books so much as articles. You could have separate collections under one account if you want to separate things. The site is specialized for books and does not have an easy way to output citations or include page numbers. You can export a list of your library but that’s about it. No uploading files, although you can put some pictures in your account if you want to show them to people. It’s good for books in that it’s got ways you can put on your own tags and sort collections. You can put in up to 200 books for free before paying for an account. The lifetime membership I bought in 2003 is the best $25 I ever spent.

For articles, book chapters, web pages, etc., I use Zotero. I used to use EndNote but Zotero is free and open-source. You should choose one or the other, as it’s not easy to exchange libraries back and forth between them. These days I’m loving how Zotero lets me work across multiple computers and have access to my library everywhere both through a webpage and through a downloadable (free) program that sits on the local hard drive and integrates with word processing software for doing citations and bibliographies. Zotero, or anything like it, will reformat your paper and works cited for various formats required by publications with just a few clicks (e.g., Chicago style, APA, MLA). You can upload PDFs of your articles and Zotero will suck in the info you need for cataloging, such as date, title, DOI, etc. Then those PDFs (and your library) are accessible anywhere you can see a webpage. There’s a limited amount of free storage, but buying more isn’t expensive, and the amount they give you is totally fine for most purposes.

You could also do everything in Zotero if you wanted, although it doesn’t have pretty cover displays for books the way LibraryThing does. It’s certainly better to put books in Zotero than it is to put other media in LibraryThing, because Zotero is built with more flexibility as far as media type and cataloging it all correctly. You can put interviews, talks, government documents, films, etc. in there, and you can also use tagging and notes. Zotero doesn’t do quite as well as LT in managing, editing, and arranging collections of books, but it’s better for everything else and better for citations.

Does that help?

#2 says:  I use Endnote because it is free through my work, no other reason.  The best thing about librarything in my opinion is that you can buy a cuecat and scan in the barcodes of the physical books into library thing and it pulls everything up. With endnote/refworks/zotero, you have to look up the book in your library system or possibly some other way (maybe googlescholar will pull down cites, I don’t know) or else manually input the data. Endnote is lovely for making lists of works cited in any format that you need, which is the main reason I use it. I have zero crossover between the two systems– librarything is solely for my home library, endnote is solely for my research. But I mostly deal with articles and only the occasional book or book chapter for my work work.  If I were only allowed the use of one, I would go with endnote and just not catalog my fiction.

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4 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Systems to catalogue books? Thoughts on endnote vs. librarything?”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Zotero and EndNote can both suck bibliographic info out of online databases, so you won’t have to do manual data entry for things you can find cited in a database like JSTOR.

    I meant to say also (this is #1) that with Zotero you can choose who (if anyone) is allowed to look at your library on the web. You can easily share libraries among groups, like in a lab. Even if someone isn’t using Zotero, you can choose to let them view your library and be able to see your citations and attachments. EndNote is trickier on this but I believe there is a way to do some of this; but it’s been a hot minute since I used it, and I believe it has changed since the version I used.

  2. lisa Says:

    Hello and thankyou. That is really great information. I think I had heard of Zotero but not really looked into it, so I will now. The comparison tables you linked are also excellent.

    I am glad you suggested that two solutions might be the answer, I think you are probably right. I was hoping for one magical unicorn solution, but it is probably not realistic. I read elsewhere a while ago that successful software can do one thing exceptionally well, the corollary being to avoid software that does many things poorly.

    I am certain that I will use a referencing system (ie Endnote or Zotero) at some point for all the reasons you mention, and yes primarily for articles. I just wasn’t sure of the utility of having a separate catalogue for (non fiction) books.

    Do you use the community discussions much in LibraryThing? Any thoughts?

  3. lisa Says:

    PS sorry I couldn’t respond earlier, I was hit by a flu virus on Friday and have been out of action since then; have not been that sick for years.


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