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Information Overload: I need a library catalogue system

Interrobang (245315) writes | more than 7 years ago

Media 11

I have realised that I am suffering from information overload, especially pertaining to the streetcar project, which encompasses 500+ electronic documents, several books, a collection of internet bookmarks, various photographs, two videocassettes, some e-mails, and various other stuff. I am starting to realise that I need a database of some sort. A program like Library Master is looking good -- if expensive -- since I also have a digI have realised that I am suffering from information overload, especially pertaining to the streetcar project, which encompasses 500+ electronic documents, several books, a collection of internet bookmarks, various photographs, two videocassettes, some e-mails, and various other stuff. I am starting to realise that I need a database of some sort. A program like Library Master is looking good -- if expensive -- since I also have a digital library of over 10K items, and a personal hardcopy library of over 2000 items I'd like to catalogue. Since it's getting to the point where one single throwaway reference in some obscure 40 year old trade journal is actually a significant puzzle piece to me, I sort of need all this stuff indexed by keyword. Not all these things have indices! And I'm actually willing to do the scary amounts of data entry required. After all, once it's done, it's done, and the catchup work is negligible.

A sample information schema or record entry in my hypothetical database would look like this:

Keywords: Antitrust, EMD (Electro-Motive Division, Electro-Motive Company)
Source: "Is EMD a Monopoly?", Trains, June, 1961
Pages: 6, 11
Authors: Unknown
Notes: diesel locomotives, NY grand jury, indictment, repower, re-engine, Sherman Act, freight traffic, 12M tons/$211M waybills/1st 9 mos of 1959, market share, competitors out of business, percentage of diesels sold

I'm tempted to buy a copy of FileMaker Pro, although it's also rather expensive, since I know that one can easily set up fields in it that are string-searchable very easily (I've used it before to manage a database of ~1000 address/contact information labels, back when I was doing targeted e-mails to schools in South Asia).

Is there anything comparable that I can get for significantly less money (like, optimally, none)? If I spend $250-400 of my research budget on software to manage my information, that's less money that I have for source materials.

Please don't suggest Base, which comes with OpenOffice. I've tried using it already, and, unless you can get the Form Designer walking and talking (I can't, and the documentation is beyond bad -- Hey, OO documentation team! Screenshots, maybe? Got a bit of a Comprehensible Only If Known Problem going on, too!!*), the fields aren't as customiseable as I need. What I want is exactly what I've shown above, and I'm not willing to compromise on organization, since I know how I search for things (by important concepts or keywords), and I pretty much guarantee that would get me the results I want, 99.9% of the time.



___________
* One of these days, once I no longer have seventeen other projects on the go, I'm going to sign on to the OO documentation team.

cancel ×

11 comments

Two simple, free ways (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18655385)

  1. create a new gmail account, email everything to it, and have google search your emails for you. It may even (via their text ads) come up with relevant links you haven't seen yet.
  2. create a wiki, and let google, yahoo, etc., index it. When you want to find stuff, just restrict your search to your site:

    The word "site" followed by a colon enables you to restrict your search to a specific site. To do this, use the site:sampledomain.com syntax in the Google search box.
    The other advantage of this is that others could then contribute, discuss, etc.

Not so simple... (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18659175)

How am I going to fit 2000+ hardcopy books and probably another 200 hardcopy documents through the wires? I don't have that much bandwidth, and given that one of my most integral primary source documents for the streetcar project is a yea-many-hundred page hardcopy document, that's not going to work very well.

I don't have the wherewithal to have the stuff scanned, either, and since a goodly lot of it is 20-60 years old, it won't OCR very well even if I did. If you have ever had to sit there and take scannos out of badly-transmitted fax documents that you've then scanned, you know what I mean. I did that part-time for about a year, and never again.

I also would like to be able to access my database offline, as well, since I'm intending on making a couple of fieldwork trips in the next year or so, and not everywhere in the world has free public WiFi yet.

I'm also not quite sure how I would do what you suggest -- a separate e-mail for every document record? I really don't like the GMail interface much, either.

Re:Not so simple... (1)

loucura! (247834) | more than 7 years ago | (#18666999)

Why not a local MySQL (or PostgreSQL if you're persnickety) database for storage, with a couple custom interfaces for querying? There are several methods of full-text indexing, some of which are extremely efficient.

Re:Not so simple... (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18681845)

Okay, that sounds more like what I'm after. How do I do that? How much sink cost am I talking about in terms of setting it up and implementing it? Can it be lightweight enough to run on a 1.8GHz laptop with no problems? Will I have to learn to program much better than I can to run it, or is it pretty simple? Pardon the ignorance, I am kind of in a hurry right now.

Could you possibly get in touch? My e-mail is shgstewart at gmail dot com.

Re:Not so simple... (1)

loucura! (247834) | more than 7 years ago | (#18684647)

Could you possibly get in touch?

Sure, I've left an email where you requested. Hopefully it hasn't been consigned to your spam bucket.

Get higher baby (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18656023)

Freebase [freebase.com]

Re:Get higher baby (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18656363)

I know the guys who do this, if you have trouble signing up for the alpha let me know.

Um, no. (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18659207)

Thanks, but that looks like it is a content archive. I want a library catalogue for tracking my personal content archive. I don't have the liberty of putting all my information online, since much of it is not in the public domain.

I need something that works similarly to FileMaker Pro -- a standalone integrated database frontend/engine that's easy to use, completely customiseable, and allows string searches in any defined field, that I can use on my laptop (so lightweight is better) and that I can use while I'm offline.

Ah right (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18659385)

Note to self: Next time, read the journal in full.

I would honestly just use Excel, but I'm a masochist that way. Create some macro data entry windows if you don't feel like typing straight into the spreadsheet. Or Microsoft Access?

Re:Ah right (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18681881)

*wince* Argh. I really hate both Excel and Access. I find Access to be next to impenetrable, and I don't get along well with Excel either. Besides, for a database, Excel makes a really good spreadsheet. Also, I don't have Office on the laptop, which is where I'm keeping the bulk of the streetcar stuff; I'm semi-committed to using as much freeware and/or open-source software as I can on my laptop. That's why I have OpenOffice on there in the first place. (Ditto Firefox and Thunderbird and PrintScreen.)

Re:Ah right (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18683403)

Besides, for a database, Excel makes a really good spreadsheet.

haha, so true. When I tell claudia about using Excel for any data handling (she is a MS-SQL and VB programmer) she yaks all over the idea. Not pretty.

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