Tracking Your Genealogy Library: iBookshelf

08 May 2013

Genealogists tend to be pack rates in many different ways. We also have a tremendous eagerness to learn. This combination tends to lead to very large collections of books and journals of all types. After a while, it can be difficult to remember exactly which books one has in one’s collection. This can lead to trouble when you are out at a conference or seminar with book vendors and you can’t remember whether or not you already own a book. There are a number of solutions to this, including a variety of apps. One of my favorites is iBookshelf.




iBookshelf is the top-rated book database app in iTunes. It will allow you to keep track of your collection, and access it in a number of different ways. Entering your books can be done a number of ways. You can scan a book’s ISBN (International Standard Book Number) bar code, and the database will automatically search for the information about the book: title, author, genre, cover image, etc. Once scanned, an editing page will appear, allowing you to add additional information.

One field that will come in very handy if you have as many books as I do is location. I have eleven bookshelves located in seven different locations in four rooms. The location field allows me to quickly understand exactly where my books are so I can easily lay my hand on it. You can mark a books as read or unread, so you can see what your reading list looks like. You can enter pricing information for each book, which will show you the value of your library (which can be a scary thought).  A comment field allows you to put all kinds of descriptive information about each title.

You can also enter a book by keying in the ISBN number directly. The database also allows you to import CSV (comma separated values) files. As genealogists, we tend to acquire many works that were published prior to the establishment of ISBNs in 1965. For these books, you can enter the author’s name or title, and the database will search for the rest of the information. If it cannot be found, you can continue to add the remainder of the information manually.

Genealogists are a friendly lot, and we are often lending our books to friends and colleagues. iBookshelf allows you to mark a book as lent out, and make a note in the comments field that tells you to whom you lent it. You can also mark a book in your possession that you borrowed, and note from whom you borrowed it.

The app allows you to look at your collection by title, author, genre, status, rating series, format, and whether or not you’ve read it. You can also create collections (e.g., reference, census, Smith family, Massachusetts, etc.) and view the titles by collection.

The developer, Josh Pressnell, has created a YouTube video that illustrates various features of the app. He also eagerly appreciates feedback from users, not only about how well the app works, but where there are opportunities for improviement. He also appreciates suggestions for additional features and is constantly working to update the app to incorporate such suggestions.

iBookshelf is available for iOS or Android for $1.99. There is a free version that allows you to test it out with limited titles. Also available are My Box Office (which tracks your movies) and CD Tracker (for your CD collection). The My Library app ($3.99) combines all three of these into a single app.