My son goes to a school in Mesa and, like many schools in Arizona, this school doesn’t have a lot of money to pay for the things that I took for granted when I was an elementary school student. They don’t have a school librarian and, as it turns out, their school library is really just a collection of books in a room.

Well, as any librarian will tell you, there’s a big difference between a collection of books and a library.

I went to a festival at his school and happened to speak to a couple of lovely ladies from the PTO. When they found out that I’m a librarian, they were immediately interested in the idea that I might be able to help their library. So I took a look at their space, their collection, and their technology and figured “You know, I could really go for a project like this.” So thus it came to pass that I’m taking the schools rather nice book collection and making a library out of it.

I’ve got the bare essentials in that I have books and shelves. There’s no ILS. There’s no online catalogue. There are no barcodes, spine labels, or anything else one might expect on a library book or in a library. When kids come to the library, all they do is look around until they find something they like. There’s no order at all.

Today I got started with fixing that. I set them up with an account on LibraryThing and I did that for a few reasons.

  • It’s an easy method of cataloguing. I’m going to have to touch each item in there several times and scanning items into LibraryThing gets me a good list of what they have.
  • I can export information from LibraryThing. That’ll become important later on when I set them up with an ILS and need to actually catalogue the items in that ILS. I love LibraryThing for this because it’ll export a CSV list of the collection and that includes the ISBN. If I have an ISBN, I can get a MARC record.
  • For the time being, it provides the school with an online catalogue. It’s not perfect and it won’t tell them if an item is in or out. But as things roll along and I build the catalogue online and in the ILS, they’ll be able to at least see if their library has a certain book. That’s something they’ve not been able to do until now.

As for the tech side of things, the operating word is INEXPENSIVE. So it helps that I’m a Linux nerd and that I know about things like Koha, MySQL, PHP/Perl, Apache, and the like. Other than the need to get them a better computer, the software for all of this stuff is available for the low, low price of free. It’s hard to get more inexpensive than free.

So I figured I’d blog about what I’m doing as I do this as I’ve never really tackled a project of the magnitude before. It’s not a massive collection of books, but it’s gotta be around two to three thousand items. It’s going to take some time. There will be some challenges. In the end, I’ll probably learn a lot and the school will have a real library.

At least that’s my mission statement. Stay tuned.

If you like, you can watch the catalogue grow on LibraryThing.