Cataloguing Is My Life



Men like order. Not in an attractive, tasteful way, but in a ‘That badly needs to be alphabetised’ unhealthy way. A female friend was appalled when I told her I spent the afternoon re-cataloguing my DVD collection, and couldn’t decide whether auteur directors deserved to be filed by surnames or by their films.

For a while I trying theming my collection, but that way madness lies. Animation seemed clear enough until ‘Roger Rabbit’ came along and muddied the waters.

Music is more complex, being divided and subdivided into over thirty separate files – my music department actually has more categories than Amazon. Crossover music is a nightmare.

I can afford to be more freeform with books because, duh, every self-respecting author can lay her/his hands on any book at any given moment. Books are arranged in no order at all because here we also need to think about the shapes they make in the bookcases.

I keep a living bookcase – that is to say, any book not returned to within five years is likely to be discarded and replaced with something new. Although now that I have 105 books waiting to be read on my Kindle – a reading system that has no built-in filing whatsoever! – gaps are appearing for the very first time in my formerly overstuffed bookcases.

I’ve slightly reordered the categories on this site to create ‘Film’, which I felt in these commercial times should be kept separate from The Arts. That meant one category had to go, so Observatory is now really about the World, although I couldn’t change all the old posts (well I could but frankly couldn’t be arsed) which is why you’ll find some old World items under, peculiarly, film.


I’m not OCD, honest. I’m just like the guy in ‘The Stepfather’ – ‘What we need is a little order around here!’


16 comments on “Cataloguing Is My Life”

  1. I need the cataloguing and order thing too, though I’m often told that’s unusual in a woman (often by a man)

  2. pheeny says:

    Someday I intend to catalogue my library using the dewey decimal system – unfortunately I keep buying books so the task becomes progressively more daunting

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    105 books waiting on your Kindle. One Zero Five books! One hundred and five books… waiting. A hundred and five Hummm… for some reason, I thought there’d be more.

  4. admin says:

    That’s UNREAD books, I have several squillion in the Cloud and a billion-trillion on my bookcases…

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Our non-fiction shelves are in dewy decimal because it’s the system with which I’m familiar, but it’s not a good system, because it really didn’t take into account the creation of fiction. There is the “literature” section, but do you really want to separate “classic” narratives from SF and romance? It is a very Victorian era system and has to use long decimals to fit new things in. Look on your local library shelves for computer info, for film effects, for space exploration, or for some of the newest nations. They’re there, but sort of wedged in. University of B.C., whose library is the only one I’ve used in person, uses the US Library of Congress system and that seems to work well, although I’ve only had to find, not catalogue, books there.
    Yes, I can find any fiction book because they’re in alpha order by author. And the author is as published. If I had an HH Munro collection of short stories it would be filed by whichever name was on the spine.
    Ooops! The librarian factor struck again. Resume normal broadcast.

  6. Ford says:

    I hate to be anal here ….I’m actually a library cataloguer by profession; it’s on the job description! Dewey, and, Library of Congress (classification) are classification systems – assigning subjects to books, DVDs etc. Cataloguing is something completely different! It is a way of describing books DVDs etc. Sorry Helen … not trying to be Saki!!!! 🙂

  7. Normandy Helmer says:

    Oh Admin, your obsessions strike so close to home. (However, librarianship is traditionally a female profession and many great catalogers are women.) I confess my physical books are arranged by appearance as well as by my assessment of subject and proper reading location. Next to the easy chair are the atlases, Andreas’s Art of Rome, Peter Beard’s African photography, Little Nemo anthology, New Yorker and Punch cartoons, and Spiegelman’s Little Lit. Upstairs in my bedroom is all the Gaiman, Fowler, T.H. White, Crispin, Allingham, Heyer, and other routine retreats. Despite the growth of electronic formats, I think the strength of a great library will always include a firm sense of place.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Sorry about that, Ford. I’m not usually as sloppy in nomenclature as that. The books for our school libraries came pre catalogued but we were permitted to submit alternate descriptions if we felt the original cataloguer had erred or if we felt the book would be better described differently. Writing the justification was always fun.

    Snowy, you will be pleased to learn your envelope arrived in London today, 10 June. Obviously we were overly optimistic about the speed of HM’s mail.

  9. snowy says:

    Ha-Ha that is spectacularly rubbish, even for the GPO Royal Mail, a privatised junk mail delivery company.

    [I sent it “next-day service” and allowed an extra 3 days for delivery. I’d have been better off nailing it to an asthmatic homing snail, with a limp.]

    Are the hotel going to forward it on, or do I need to go to-

    *zoom in*
    *dramatic turn to camera*
    *raises collar*
    *lowers hat brim*

    “Plan C”?

  10. Jo W says:

    I thought that most delivery services now employ asthmatic snails with or without a limp(they can’t discriminate against disabilities.) But,do tell,what does Plan C involve?

  11. steve says:

    A living bookcase of 5 years Admin, that’s brutal. The downside is that you miss the opportunity to rediscover a loved volume that’s hidden itself away at the back of a shelf. Recently had the pleasure of finding a few novels that I’d forgotten I had but not read in decades tucked away behind behind more recent purchases…ie 15 years or so. Admittedly our bookshelves are also a living organism, one that’s spreading around the house- kind of like a coral reef!. Your trouble with the kindle is the same as mine- its just sssooooo easy to download books at a whim without taking up any space. If only someone could work out how to do the same for cake without calories!

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Snowy, they are forwarding it on and claim that I should receive it in 7 working days. I’m not sure on what grounds they aver that, but we shall see. (International mail is automatically air mail, apparently.)

  13. snowy says:

    OK, H, I’ll keep my fingers crossed.


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    Jubn bu, bu


  14. Wayne says:

    Books do need to be placed by author in our house, unless you are C. Fowler, then you get your own special shelf. Not that this was done for any other reason other than space needed in the front room where the E’s and F’s were and as Mr Fowler is a bit of a shelf blocker the space made allowed many new books to find a home on a shelf instead of being placed in a pile on the floor close by. So all the rooms in the house now have a wall of books all in order by author. The only books that get weeded out are those with print too small to be read comfortably.

    The DVD collection just goes into an order book for quick refrence so they can be found in the appopriate draw or holder area. None are kept in the original box but filed into holder boxes, that is except whole TV series collections…

    CD’s are by a music type and then by artist, we have about six catogories at prescent. Music in the cloud! what’s that?

    We are not OCD either HONEST!

  15. Jo W says:

    O I C Snowy!

  16. Jozafeen says:

    It’s not a man thing, it’s a person of a type thing (I’m avoiding the term Geek as it doesn’t fit and wondering if butterfly collectors discussed the same problem over a century ago via a quarterly magazine or somesuch).
    My DVDs are by genre or common actor or director – for example John Carpenter/Kurt Russell and so on.
    Books by author and publication date, although it absolutely buggers with my OCD that Gollancz changed their format size for hardbacks several times.
    Music is more of a problem as first name/last name by solo artist is easy but first name/last name by band is harder to do if it’s *somebody* and *the somebodies* where the frontperson is a proper figurehead and then went on to do solo stuff (Siouxsie & The Banshees for example) and, with bands, is it the first or last you file it by?
    My partner is the Mr Trebus of Rolls Royce publications and doesn’t understand order or dusting – my life would be hell if he didn’t keep it all in a small room I don’t venture into.

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