Tag Archives: books

Export from Zotero to Librarything or Goodreads

One of Zotero’s many virtues is that it is a really robust container for bibliographic data. If you want to spend a little time playing with the Citation Style Language that Zotero uses it is actually pretty easy to get some useful data out of Zotero to do all sorts of fun things with. One of the most simple of which is exporting items for services like Librarything and ISBN numbers which each service then either grabs the data from Amazon, the Library of Congress, or just the existing pool of items that they already have available.

Gist:

  1. Install this CSL into your copy of Zotero.
  2. Create a biblography from all your books using the ISBN Export style
  3. Import the list to Librarything or Goodreads importers

Organize Books Inside Zotero

Before explaining how to export the books you’ll want to get a clean list of books you own. I tag all the items in my library that I own with the “I Own it” tag. From their it is easy to create an advanced search for all your books that have that tag.

Getting ISBN Numbers

Next use my nifty CSL file to export ISBN numbers. Just save this CSL file to your desktop and drag it into a open Firefox window, you should then be prompted to install the CSL. Once installed you will have ISBN Export as a option in the create bibliography menu.

This very simple export style underscores how easy it is to get started playing with CSL. The part of the style that does all the work is really just these few lines.

  <bibliography>
    <sort>
      <key variable="ISBN"/>
    </sort>
    <layout suffix="">
      <text variable="ISBN" prefix="" suffix="     "/>
    </layout>
  </bibliography>

The first part of this  <sort> sets list to sort by the ISBN number, and the second part,  <layout> tells Zotero that all we want is the ISBN without any characters as a prefix or a suffix.

Uploading Your File

From there all you need to do is upload your file. Both of Goodreads and Librarything have pages for uploading book information. While each service allows you to upload additional information my understanding is that that other info is only used in cases when the ISBN number for a given work was either missing or malformed.

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.