Making Book Labels With Zotero

To the left you can see a sample of some of my labeled books. It may not be particularly pretty, but those labels do exactly what I wan them to do. Display information, have only a limited chance to damage my books, and cost me practically nothing. In this post I will walk through how I took my catalog of books from inside my Zotero collection, generated the labels, and went about sticking them on. This has been a bit more time intensive than I initially thought. It is really easy to export the tab-delimited file and make labels out of it, that only takes a few moments. The time consuming part was matching up the labels with my books. After the first batch I came up with a few ways to help speed up matching the books to their labels. So, if your following along at home this should work a bit quicker than it initaly did for me.

1. Install my ugly hack of a tab-delimited citation style.

I tweaked a existing style into this tab-delimited export. To install it just download it to your desktop and drag it into an open Firefox browser window. You should be prompted to install it.

2. Export your data using the tab-delimited style.

This part is easy, just right click on the items you want to export and chose the style you just installed. At this moment you have an opportunity to make life easier for yourself. Export smaller batches of items using tags you have assigned based on where the books are located in your house. It will only take a few seconds to tag all the books on the shelf in the guest bedroom with “location:guestbedroom”. Export the guest bedroom books in one batch. Then run through the rest of the steps.  When you print out the labels you can just go straight to the guest bedroom insted of wandering aimlessly throughout your whole house trying to remember which shelf you stuck Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on.

2. Check the exported file.

Remember, my export style is not fancy, in fact I called it ugly. Open up the file, consider sorting it by call number, double check that your data is there. I imported the file into excel to make sure it looked Ok, but you could use any kind of spreadsheet or database application to do this.

3. Doing the Mail Merge.

The next step is to merge the exported tab-delimited into a print ready document. I used Word’s Mail merge function and their standard address labels. It works a little different in different versions of word but the general concept is the same. You open the data manager, or whatever they like to call it, import data from our tab-delimited file, and then you just drag the data hunks into the labels with the order and spacing you want. Then you merge the data and the structure and send it to either a new document or a printer.

4. Print um and stick um.

Printing is easy, sticking them to your books is time consuming. If you like, you can pick up pre-sticky address label paper at target or a office supply store. I find these little guys to be more trouble than their worth though. In my experience some of the records inevitably print out of alingment with the diecuts, the ink smears when you touch it, they cause printer jams, and when you eventualy try to peal them off they leave nasty gunk behind. I chose to just print mine on regular paper, cut them apart with a paper cutter and addhere them to my books with scotch tape. If you broke your books into location based batches it should not take to long to stick on the labels. Once you have all the books labeled it is as easy as making sure the books are in the right order.

Touching the National Mall

I really like how you can tell just how frequently the Park’s services maps on the National mall are used by how worn the areas around the Lincoln Memorial and Washington monument have become. As you look at the worn spots around these two monuments you can picture the hundreds of thousands of tourists that touched their destination on these maps.

Chmiel’s In The Capitol

We were very lucky to have Marjee’s mom and dad visit us a few weeks ago. After the wedding we left our pups with them in Chicago, and bringing the dogs back made for a great excuse to get them both to come visit us.

Marjee’s dad had never done the whole nations capitol highlights tour so we made some time to make that happen. Our first attempt got rained out, we saw the Natural History Museum bought some panchos and got completely soaked as I forgot exactly how far away the Farragut metro stop was.

The next day we took a brunch cruise around the Potomac. As seen above the food was excellent. It was also a lot of fun to see the monuments from the water.

Chmiels and the capitol

Supreme Family

Dad and the Capitol

Mom and Dad Outside the Whitehouse

After that we hit the major spots, walked around the capitol building, the supreme court, the whitehouse, washington monument, world war two memorial, the vietnam memorial, and the Lincoln memorial. It was throughly exhausting and throughly enjoyable.

Cataloging Our Library in Zotero

Before starting my home cataloging project I really only used Zotero to grab individual items, this was my first time trying to look-up large numbers of items at once. I am happy to report that I came up with a work flow that let me run through about fifty books every ten minutes.

I found that the quickest way to pick up my books was throw in a few keywords from each book title, and if necessary a author’s last name into the Library of Congress’s basic keyword search. Most of these searches will then jump directly to the individual item record pages where you can grab the bibliographic record, including all the subject headings, call number, and other relevant info, with a single click.

To make sure the data looked good I kept Zotero part way open and switched out the fields shown in the middle column to show only the call number and the title, and to sort by the date added. With that configuration each new item I added ends up at the bottom of the list and each of the relevant pieces of information is right there for me to check. You can see what that looks like below.

So far I have pulled in about 350 of our books into my Zotero library, once you get the workflow going it moves pretty quickly. In short order I should have a digital copy of our entire library. In the next post I will explain how to get these items out of my collection as print ready labels.

Using Zotero as a Personal Library Catalog

Note: Not actualy my books image credit to Kristin Brenemen

My wife and I have a lot of books, tons of books. So many books that I am sometimes surprised to find books I didn’t even know we had. Over the years I have tried to organize them in ways that make sense to me. This approach has failed utterly and completely. I have now resolved to organize our library using the Library of Congress Classification system and I think I have the technology to make this relatively easy.

Below are the four steps I see to making this work. I have done some experiments and I am pretty confident that this will work. I intend to make detailed posts about each stage. So if anyone out their is as big a book dork I should leave detailed enough instructions for you to follow along.

How am I going to do this?

First I need to capture the bibliographic information for our books from the Library of Congress catalog into my Zotero collection. Since I already have about 100 of our books in my collection this should be relatively easy.

Then I need to export the Names and Call Numbers of all those books from Zotero. I should be able by hacking a simple custom bibliographic style. With any luck it won’t take long.

After that I will take that tab delimited file and use a mail merge to print the title’s and call numbers of my books onto address labels that I picked up at Target.

Why would I want to do this?

You might be thinking, why are you using Zotero for this? If all I wanted to do was organize my books by their LCCN’s I could just look them up and paste the call numbers into a Word document.

While this would be a way to go, doing this inside Zotero gives me the added benefit of having a really amazing iTunes like interface to find my books. I am also excited to see what the weighted tag cloud of all the subject headings for my books looks like.

One might also ask why not use something like Delicious library or Librarything? First, I’m cheap. Both of these services cost money where Zotero is free. Furthermore the various programs created to organize one’s local collections of books are set up do do just that and only that. There are some big plans for Zotero to do a whole lot more and I think it will be neat to have my entire collection of books in my Zotero library as those new features role out.

Edit: I meant to say LC clasification system, not LCSH.

Sara Rashid reports from Grant Park

Our very good friend Sara Rashid was able to attend Obama’s acceptance speech yesterday. I wanted to share her take:

From Sara:
…it was a miraculously warm night out. Beautiful. I’ve never felt so comfortable surrounded by 100,000 strangers. I hate crowds and am always intimidated by them – so much so that, to my embarassment, I actually asked if we could stay home last night. I was scared. Coleman said I was welcome to stay home, but that if I did, I’d miss this century’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I had to give him that one. It turned out to be like being with family. Absolutely nothing but good feelings, warmth, comraderie, and manners. In that massive heep of humans, any and every time someone’s toe was inadvertantly stepped on you heard a prompt apology. That sh*t doesn’t even happen in church. It was amazing.

We declined to push through the masses to be on the “ground floor” (eek! Oprah vibes!), and opted rather to stay on the sidelines. We had a perfect view of everything. Coleman’s sister had her camera; promised to send me pics (which I will forward to you). We had a perfect view of the hotel Obama was staying at (allegedly) and you could see shadows of people on the giant front balcony. Coleman surmised they were Secret Service Snipers, and I doubt he was wrong. That + the amount of police + the constant helicopter rumbling made for quite an intimidating scene, but still, nothing but smiles and ease.
It stunned us how quickly Obama’s victory was announced. He won Virginia (to a roar from the crowd), I texted you, and then BOOM! – the CNN screen we were all watching displayed his victory. It was so unexpected there was a pause in the crowd – and then elation. I cried. I think everyone cried. I’m sure we all had our different reasons. I cried because I was amazed at the possibilities in a lifetime. And because I was proud of him. And scared for him. And because I was proud of us. And scared for us. I cried because I was moved, and happy, and sad (thinking about his grandmother’s death), and, frankly, because I was surprised. I really didn’t have faith. But I do now 🙂
The trip home was gleeful, to put it mildly. People were honking their horns and playing frickin’ bongos and dancing in the streets. Strangers were hugged and high-fived. Donuts were purchased from convenience store employees wearing Uncle Sam hats and screaming right along with the patrons. Every now and then, you’d hear a champagne cork pop. Believe it or not, not once did that sound make me jump. That’s the calming affect this news had, joyous as it was. Suddenly, it felt like things might be alright. On that way home I also realized that not once in my life have I seen our president on T.V. or heard his voice on the radio and been proud. I am now. It’s new and strange and powerful and very, very exciting.

Oh yes, as I’m recalling it all I should say that I thought McCain’s concession speech was dignified, respectful, wise, and kind. It should be noted that our crowd applauded him. To my delight, it should also be noted that our crowd booed Palin 🙂

I woke up this morning unable to process how I felt. I’ve never felt a grand-scale optimism like this. I’m so glad Obama’s speech mentioned the failures and “missteps” that will undoubtedly occur, because I don’t want anyone in the world to think we misinterpret this man as a diety. He’s just a man. But quite a man he is.

Marjee and Trevor’s Election Picks

To make election night a bit more fun we decided to each lay out our picks on a state by state basis. For the record here they are.

Marjee’s Election picks: Obama 306 McCain 232

Trevor’s Election Predictions: Obama 353 McCain 185