Temporary Indexing

A tool for printing our libraries

Readers of digital books often use software (such as Calibre) to manage their libraries. They write metadata that describes and organises their collections idiosyncratically, entering information for fields such as title, author, tags, keywords and comments. Yet, this metadata is rarely published and what is called a "library" often amounts to an overwhelming number of files that remain unread and unshared, in a directory on a personal computer.

Cards made at the event "A moment for Temporary Indexing", held at Varia, December 2021

Libraries do so much more than give access to knowledge; they produce sociality. The sharing of texts is a fundamentally social activity; publishing is making public and making publics. How can our libraries be published to help us understand not only their content, but their social context and particularity, and in doing so connect them together?

Going through a library index

Temporary Indexing is an experimental tool for printing, reading and sharing our personal library collections. It makes PDFs of printable catalogue cards from database files produced by installations of Calibre. It is intended to be used in "print parties", social events where we print indices and share our collections in an intimate, one-to-one setting. The tool encourages us to read and edit our libraries as an index made in a moment of printing, sharing, meeting, reading, making public.

Sharing and exchanging library catalogue cards

How to use it

  1. Upload a valid metadata.db file
  2. Choose which side, a or b, to include fields for title, author, timestamp, commments and tags
  3. Click "generate" to produce an imposed 4-up A4 PDF
  4. Download, print and cut your PDF into A6 double-sided cards using paper of your choice

Temporary Indexing runs on tools such as Flask-WTF, SQLite, pdfcpu, ReportLab and the Python module temp-index. It is free software published under the GNU General Public License v3.0, and can be copied, modified and redistributed from a git repository.

Temporary Indexing builds on research by Simon Browne, an artist, researcher and "contingent librarian" whose work engages with the social dimension of publishing, free software and infrastructure that supports interpersonal knowledge-sharing networks.

If you have any questions or issues, or if you would like to contribute to the project, please contact Simon Browne at info@simonbrowne.biz.