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.

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