Message from ARLIS-L compiling responses on "recommended softwares for the small new library system" -- collected by Roberto Ferrari (March 2003)

I've had numerous requests to share the information I received from everyone re: recommended softwares for the small new library system. Rather than analyze all of the information, I am providing below in this email the text of the messages I received. I have removed the names and personal references of the senders but the pertinent information regarding the library systems is below. I hope this assists those who have requested the shared information.
-- Roberto


I used Winnebago Spectrum when I was in charge of a small special collections library in upstate New York. Since our collection was non-circulating, we did not purchase the circulation part of the software, only the basic catalog. It was pretty easy to use for a small collection. It provides simple templates for the small amount of original cataloging I did and I am NOT a cataloger by any stretch of the imagination.


You might just make a catalog using MS Access. I am working on cataloging a reference library of an East-side gallery (about 4,000 books and auction catalogs) and have made a simple catalog interface with MS access and my client seems very happy with the results so far. This is a very efficient and cost-effective solution.

************************************************** is an ASP (Application Service Provider) that offers basic library functions including basic and advanced searching, MARC cataloguing and circulation as well as reporting. The total cost is $300 ayear for a database of up to 15,000 records - this may be overkill for the Jewish Community Center, but the great advantage is that the database can be accessed through the Internet. If you want any further information I would be happy to answer any questions - we are beginning to use the system right now. You can also get more info at


I saw your message & have 1 possibility to mention. We Sagebrush's Athena cataloging software to manage our small academic library's holdings. There are options for MARC-formats, but you can very easily customize the record formats. I've found this software to be pretty easy to use & to train others on quickly.

As far as costs go, the initial software was around $600 several years ago, with annual service contracts (well worth it, as their tech support is among the best I've encountered for software) runs a few hundred each other year.

They might be worth taking a look at.

Sagebrush Contact Info: Website: Email: Phone: 800.661.4109


I am not a certified librarian, but have worked in public and college libraries a lot. Currently, I have built a graphic arts library from 200 books to about 2000. This does not include our hundreds of magazines which have many images that the students need.

I began cataloguing the books using the library of congress cataloging system by going to the LC website, and now I use Marcive which is very inexpensive and online, and I use my own ingenuity. I believe that the "librarians" must have some system of putting the material on the shelves or in drawers.

Students are always looking for certain images for their projects. When I first came here, I thought, "They will never find what they are looking for at this rate." (They would take stock photography books and flip through them. Very time consuming when they need to be working on a project.)

I asked one of the instructors who knows computers about a database. He suggested File Maker Pro. We have now upgraded to #6. It is simple and easy to use. You can designate the source as well as where to find it in the source (page numbers). You can designate where to find it if the material is segregated in different areas. If you want, you can include pictures. We opted not to do this, but we describe what is in the source. At this time we have over 23,500 images logged into File Maker Pro.

If they simply number the material from 1 - ? and have it in order on the shelf or in a drawer, they can enter this information in the computer for the patron to find. If they have no organization for the material, I doubt that any system can work..


How about using a spreadsheet? For such a small collection you could enter author, title, publisher, date, subject(s), call number or shelf location in separate columns. Then, sort by each column and save as 5 (or however many) files. A patron could choose to search by author, title, etc. and use the CTRL F feature to find the desired info.

It's very rough, but would be easy to create and maintain, cheap, and wouldn't involve cataloging codes/rules, etc. One problem might be in assigning assigning subjects - if several people do it, they won't be uniform. And you'd have to use some sort of password scheme so only a few people could add/change information in the files.


I will say this: based on my own experience developing a small art museum library over a 21 year period with a collection that started out small (around 300 vols.) and grew over that time to around 7,000--"you just never know!" I believe that there are some simple inexpensive systems available now that have a template interface but that are based on a simplified version of MARC. If at all possible, I would recommend that whatever software is used, that it be MARC-compatible. In the event that the library for which you are consulting ever does expand, it will be SO much simpler to convert the catalog to a larger system if it is MARC-compatible to begin with. I would not recommend the system that I used [---] as it had minimal technical support but I was very glad when the library was donated to LACMA that it was so easy to integrate the [---] records into the [---] OPAC because the system I used was MARC-based.


A collection of 1500 books is quite small. When I was in grad school I remember being told that such small collections really do not need a catalog, one can pretty much keep a mental picture of the extent of the collection in your head. I suppose this would work for a personal collection or one where there was always a library staff person on hand to help the patrons. A simple database would probably handle your needs. There are, however, some systems that can be found on the internet. They tend to be for very small libraries and collectors. I have no experience with these and cannot make any recommendations. I have, however, included the names and URLs for a few of them.

Book Organizer Deluxe 2.0, $65, You can download a demo version of this one.

Organize! Your Collection, $39.95,

I searched the web for "cataloging software." There may be some other possibilities. As I said, I have no experience with these products but it's possible you might find them helpful.

For a collection that size, you could have a card catalog.


I would suggest Microsoft Access. We currently have almost 30,000 auction catalogues entered in an Access database. They can create as many fields as they need. For the auction catalogs we have the auction house(separated by location of sale, Sotheby's London, Sotheby's New York, etc.), date of sale, sale code/number, and auction title. They are then searchable by any of the fields or even a word in the title (don't try furniture or ceramics--you'll get way too many choices, but eventually you would get what you want). I suggest them setting up fields like author, title, classification number (or what ever system they develop), an maybe one or two general subject fields. It would be a cheap, and fairly effective system, especially for all the number of titles they would be carrying.


Alexandria from Companion Corporation is a very simple, user-friendly system. You can see a demo of it at their website:


You could suggest that they contact Sagebrush Winnebago regarding its Athena product, which is used by many schools nationwide. It offers a self-guiding cataloging component designed for use by non-catalogers, and an easily searchable OPAC. (Athena is not desirable for "serious" catalogers.)


i am writing to tell you of a softward program i used when i ran [---]. the library was not "catalogued" but arranged on the shelves by alphabetical order. the users would not have tolerated dewey. anyway it served the purpose well, had good upgrades and sounds like it might work for the Jewish community center. of course i don't know how it performs now since i left [---] over six years ago. the software comes from inmagic. the internet address is it has a link to library software on the homepage under Select by Application. i hope this is of some help.

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