organizing your personal library

a short review of some options

kim gormley

late night access and lending services supervisor

sarah elichko

social sciences librarian

what we'll talk about today

overview of the tools (30 minutes)

  • tools for keeping track of readings, notes, citations, and more
  • why you might want to try one tool rather than another

after the overview

  • how to set up the tool(s) you want to try                                       
  • your individual questions

the tools

tracking your reading:  Goodreads, Instapaper, Tripod Lists

citation & reference management:  Zotero, Mendeley

full-featured note-taking:  Evernote, Google Drive/Docs

quick note-taking:  Workflowy, Simplenote, Cornell Notes

annotating & bookmarking websites:  Diigo

planning and tracking your reading

    for personal and/or academic purposes

    save books and articles from the web to read later

    track what you've already read and what you thought about it


    + Quick way to save articles that you find online

    + Removes ads and optimizes for reading on an iPad, phone, or Kindle

    + Might reduce procrastination (read it later)
    +/- Simple and text-focused (unlike competitor Pocket)

    - Doesn't work with PDFs, books, or articles requiring a login
    - iOS (iPad/iPhone) app costs $3.99
    - No built-in support for annotation


    + Keep track of books that you want to read and have read

    + Find book reviews and recommendations from other users 

    + Easy to add books, create lists, rate books, and write reviews

    - Doesn't handle articles or websites well

    - Recently purchased by Amazon (so may change significantly)

    Tripod Lists

    + Quickly create lists of books in the Libraries
    + Save your searches and return to them later
    + Easily export to Zotero, can export to Evernote

    - Only works with books held by the Tri-Co Libraries (no articles)

    keeping track of citations, references, and reading

    academic-focused (but can help you organize other articles and personal documents)

    bibliography generators that also store PDFs of articles


    + easy to import metadata (from webpage, ISBN, PDF)

    + organize with tags and folders

    + easily export bibliography to Word


    + Extracts metadata (author, title, etc.) from PDF files

    + Annotate PDFs and sync to access your readings from anywhere

    + Create bibliographies and export to Word

    - Limited free storage space for PDF files

    - Now owned by Elsevier, so may change significantly.

    full-featured note-taking

    for academic and/or personal purposes

    these tools offer more features than their plain-text counterparts, such as integration of images and video

    can be slower to use than the simpler tools


    + Store notes, images, and files and sync across platforms

    + Search for text inside images (e.g. a photo of a business card)

    - On a mobile device (e.g. iPad or Android), reliable offline access is a feature reserved for premium subscribers ($5/month or $45/year)

    - Stores notes in a proprietary format (.enex)

    Google Docs

    + complete revision history

    + easy to annotate, share

    - online only, some hiccups converting to/from Word

    quick note-taking

    simple, easy, and lightweight note-taking

    plain text, relatively few bells and whistles

    will work on basically any device

    instant gratification


    + Create plain-text lists and outlines
    + Collapse and expand lists (e.g. compare, view only one at a time)
    + Access your notes from anywhere with an Internet connection

    - Only plain-text, so no formatting allowed
    - Limited to 500 items per month (at one time)


    + Quick, easy, and simple note-taking

    + Synchronizes notes for access from any devices

    +/- Plain-text only (no bold, italic, etc.)

    Cornell Notes

    + writing usually faster than typing, improves recall

    +/- not computer-based

    annotating and

    bookmarking websites


    + highlight, add notes to webpages

    + organize with tags and lists

    + easy to share and collaborate

    - limited to webpages

    Comparing the Tools

    Where to find more tools



    DiRT: Digital Research Tools

    General Awareness




    Gizmo's Freeware Reviews (

    Ask for advice:

    Sarah Elichko -