Things I've picked up along the way...

#CPD23 Thing 14(b): It’s not what I thought…

Number fourteen

Wow. I am ridiculously excited about citation management software. That probably says something (maybe many things) terrible about me. But I really really am. It’s not something I really knew existed. When I read about Thing 14 on the CPD23 blog, my initial thought was, I regret to inform you, one of polite disinterest. I don’t work in an academic library. I don’t create reading lists. I’m not studying. What would I want citation management software for?

But then I downloaded Mendeley. And realised that it’s awesome! I mean, possibly not as awesome as the Sistine Chapel, or the Milky Way, or plate tectonics. But rather more awesome than I expected bibliographic management software to be.

I chose Mendeley from the list provided by Isla, because in her blog post she explained that it copes well if you point it at a folder full of PDFs saved on your computer. I remembered I had such a folder, filled with papers I’d read when I was a student, and when I was writing journal papers (I have two and a half to my name, based on my MSc dissertation from Library School). I haven’t looked in the folder for *cough* rather a long time and, rather embarrassingly, I can’t remember what on earth is in it.

Now here I must confess just how (for a librarian) shamefully ignorant I was of the merits of citation software. I had imagined it to be like a database version of the card index, where it gave me fields and I had to fill in the blanks. A sort of do-it-yourself-library catalogue. A more grown-up and therefore less-fun version of LibraryThing, with no pretty photos of the book covers (journal covers don’t tend to be that thrilling anyway). I figured the USP for citation software was, that if I pressed lots of buttons it would generate a bibliography for me… but probably not in the arcane format that [insert institution name here] required. I was wrong!

Photograph of a card index of journal citations.

I’m wrong pretty frequently, so I don’t know why I was so surprised about this. I think it’s because I got a very negative impression of RefWorks when I started Library School. It was still brand-spanking-new and the University were struggling with it. I played around with it, but as it didn’t get on very well with my (old) computer, I quickly reverted to my traditional method of keeping a bibliography as I went along using my (antique) version of MS Word. It was a bit of a faff, but it was the type of faff that I was familiar with, and the type of faff that didn’t mind that our Internet connection cut out with alarming and dispiriting regularity.

Anyway, cut to the present. This week in fact. I downloaded Mendeley. I pointed it at the folder of doom… and it just… worked out what everything was. Made a list. Put in the titles, and the authors. Filled out all the fields all on its own. And it did this really quickly. It discovered things I forgot I even had. Then, when I got curious and looked at the web version, I could see stats for the papers (including my own). Frankly, this seemed miraculous.

A screenshot of Mendeley

There are lots of other features too - I know I have only just begun to scratch the surface. It can generate bibliographies and citations really easily. If I were writing a paper, I can see it would be invaluable. And amazingly it is free. A subscription version is available, with lots more bells and whistles - but I love that the basic version is free, so users - be they academics, librarians, students, or all of the above - can try it first.

I know I’m late to the party. All the cool librarians discovered citation management software years ago. I know there are lots of other awesome tools available to do the same thing  (including the ones Isla highlighted in the blog). But, well, the party is still going on, so although I’m a late arrival, I’m going to make the most of it.

Yay CPD23!

Image credits:

  1. pool ball - number 14, by Leo Reynolds and Creative Commons licensed via Flickr.
  2. Index Card, by Reeding Lessons and Creative Commons licensed via Flickr.
  3. A screenshot of Mendeley by, and Creative Commons licensed via Flickr.

4 notes

  1. jothelibrarian posted this