Creating the Special Collections Handbook has meant organising many references, to books, journal articles, pdf reports, web pages, blog posts, listservs etc etc etc across several PCs and other machines. I’ve managed such material over the last few years with a combination of bookmarks on various PCs and notes, knowing that I needed to find a better way but not driven to it. The Handbook made me do it. I needed a solution that I could access anywhere from any machine and that gave me options for the future, as I intend to maintain all the links in the book online. I found it: Zotero!
Why Zotero? I wanted to use something freely available on the web rather than proprietary software. Originally I considered Delicious, but that seemed too biased towards web resources rather than bibliog and at the time I was choosing its future was uncertain. I tried Diigo, but we didn’t get on. I didn’t like the interface. I got the vibe that Mendeley worked better for science subjects and didn’t understand it when I tried to use it. But Zotero and I got along at once.
Zotero is a citation management tool which claims that you can “See it. Save it. Sort it. Search it. Cite it.” It’s true! I have given it a good test. In three months or so I’ve added about 1200 references, 320 MB of storage, in all kinds of formats. I’ve sorted them into the sections and subsections of the book and added lots of tags. Zotero works well on multiple, and I’ve had very few problems with the syncing, which was my main concern. The great advantage is that I don’t have to go anywhere I wouldn’t otherwise be, as Zotero nestles into my Firefox browser. If I see something interesting while browsing, one click gets it into the Library. No more bookmarks! In fact, I forget about it being Zotero and just use it. It’s part of my working life.
Quibbles? I exhausted the free storage and had to buy more ($20 a year). I find dealing with PDFs a pain because you can’t add an author or date and have to change the original file title to something that makes sense. I haven’t quite taught Zotero how to produce references in Facet Publishing’s particular style, but it’s near enough. Finally, Zotero doesn’t sense duplicates unfortunately – these have to be deleted manually. However, these are small problems with what I find to be a really useful and powerful resource.