Miskatonic University Press

Mrs. Abbott


I had to move Mrs. Abbott, my homegrown library management system, from one machine (FreeBSD 6.4) to another (Ubuntu 9.10) so while I was moving files around and setting up MySQL and all that, I started using Git to manage the source code instead of RCS and I put it into GitHub: http://github.com/wdenton/mrsabbott/.

It's a fairly poor library catalogue system, written in Perl, without many featuers, done by someone (me) who at the time (early 2001) knew nothing about cataloguing or MARC records and little about programming. I know something about cataloguing and MARC now, but I'm not much of a better programmer.

Back then I'd decided I wanted to keep better track of what was in my library, and nothing out there did what I wanted. I tried Koha but it was too complicated. So I wrote my own.

Later that year, I started library school. The first class I had was intro cataloguing, taught by Lynne Howarth. It was a revelation! In that half-year course I learned about why cataloguing is done, who it's for, what's important, and how it's done with subject analysis, classification, Dewey, LC, LCSH, AACR, MARC, and more.

The more I learned the more I realized how many things Mrs. Abbott needed. It always did what I needed, though: tell me what I had in my collection and where it was. (I classify all my non-fiction with the Library of Congress Classification.) So I never got around to upgrading it to use MARC records or anything like that. If I did it over, I'd do it very differently, or perhaps I'd use LibraryThing. But I don't need to yet.

The code's embarrassingly bad, but I liked Dale Askey's talk We Love Open Source Software. No, You Can't Have Our Source Code. I doubt anyone will ever be interested in this, but I think it's better to work on code in public than in private, and having it on GitHub means I can hack on it from anywhere should I want to (and that I have an extra backup out there). So I pushed it up.

I named the program after Nancy Abbott — Mrs. Abbott, as I called her, of course — who ran the library where I went when I was a young boy. Some lucky people had a librarian who was a major figure in their childhood, and she was mine.