Sunday, August 28, 2011

Keeping Track

ENTRY 0011

As far as I know, I'm the only one reading this blog at the moment.  So I don't have what might be called "Frequently Asked Questions" just yet.  At this point, it might be more likely to call them Frequently Anticipated Questions, because sooner or later, someone is likely to ask them.

In any event, I suspect that if anyone does stumble across this, I have a good idea what the first thing they would ask might be:

How do you know you're not picking up something that you already have?

Or to  put it another way, How do you what items you're missing?

The answer is really quite easy.  I keep records.  I keep lists.  I keep a spreadsheet.

I'm just a little bit on the OCD side.  That might be just a little more than self-evident, considering the very reason for this particular blog's existence.  And I've mentioned in at least a couple of entries, I'm something of a completist.  Many years ago, I decided that I needed some way to keep track of everything in my library.  And a card catalog didn't sound like the right way to go about it.

The first version of my record keeping was decidedly low-tech.  I picked up some extra checkbook registers from my bank, and I noted in those registers the titles of the various books and magazines in my (at the time) small collection.  This was a haphazard system at best -- if you could even call it a system.  I had filled one register, and was about to fill a second, when I realized that I needed something better.

That second version was slightly more advanced.  I had discovered accountants' pads.  I think they are technically called analysis pads or columnar pads.  They are loose-leaf versions of pages from a ledger book.  This proved to be more organized.  I used one sheet for each title in my collection -- for instance, Starlog or Omni -- and listed each issue of a magazine on subsequent lines on the sheet.  I recorded the cover price in the dollars-and-cents column.  If I missed an issue for some reason, I would list the issue number, but leave the cover price on that line blank until I acquired a copy.

I used my typewriter to make the listings nice and legible.  And since they were loose-leaf sheets, I organized them in a binder.  Of course, my own particular method of organization might seem a little unusual, but I have found that it works.

Eventually, the computer came along, and with it, the spreadsheet program.  Since my word processing software of choice is WordPerfect, the spreadsheet program with which I am most comfortable is Corel's Quattro Pro.  (Yes, I am familiar with Excel.  I just prefer using Quattro Pro.)

The switchover from the columnar pads was a gradual one.  I would enter information from the columnar pages to  Quattro Pro a few pages at a time, usually on the weekends.  And I would print out the sheets as I finished.  For a while, I remember that the binder had an interesting mixture of pages -- green sheets from the columnar pads mixed with the plain white paper from my printer.

For a long time, I stored the file on floppy disk.  Make that disks, plural, as I usually had at least one backup disk on hand should something happen.  And on at least a couple of occasions, I did have to resort to using one of my backup disks and the binder to recreate everything.  Recently, though, I transferred the file on the floppy drive to a flash drive.  It was a case of necessity -- the file was quickly approaching the 1.44 MB capacity of the floppy disk.  I plan on using this flash drive exclusively for matters relating to my collection.  It's only a 2 GB flash drive, but I don't foresee running out of space anytime soon.

I suspect there will still be the need for making backup copies.  I am a firm believer in Murphy's Law, after all.  But now, I will probably be burning the files to a CD to make the backups.


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