When I first started collecting comic books as a boy, the small size of my collection, coupled with the limited resources I had to spend on it, made it pretty easy to keep track of what I had. I could go digging through back issue bins and pull out anything I was on the hunt for without consulting anything but my memory. Naturally, that became more difficult as my collection grew and the number of things I was looking for also grew.

The day I knew my collection was beyond the scope of my memory was when I bought a copy of Fantastic Four #76, only to find once I arrived home that I had already purchased it before. Twice. Not only could I not recall getting it once, but I couldn’t recall the annoyance of buying it a second time, only to discover that I already had a copy. That’s when I decided to become a librarian.

Not as a profession, but as a tertiary outgrowth of my hobby. I needed to start cataloging what I had, and what I was looking for, just so I didn’t wind up spending loads of money on duplicates. I saw my father do the same thing with magic books. His collection had grown large enough that he couldn’t remember everything he had, and had to start recording all of it.

While a simple recording of titles and authors seems straight-forward enough, I can guarantee you that you’ll find it much more difficult the deeper you get into it, regardless of your fandom of preference. While much of your collection will follow fairly standard conventions when it comes to identification, there will inevitably be outliers that require additional attention. Mis-prints, exclusives, prototypes, recalls, knock-offs…

Whether you’re a fan of comics, magic books, stamps, stuffed animals, old films, Civil War clothing, pewter dinnerware cast by Paul Revere, or just about anything else, there will eventually be some difficulty in keeping track of your collection. And once you start doing that, there will be a new difficulty to cataloguing all of it in a cohesive and consistent enough manner that you can find everything again later. It almost doesn’t matter how specific your interest is, you’re likely to run into similar issues. You might have some advantage if you’re tackling a more popular interest, just because you’ll find others trying to sort through the same issues.

Not too long ago, I asked a former libriarian, who now teaches library science, for some guidance in recording some obscure comics. She basically shrugged, and said that she would bow down to any librarians who even tackled some of the cataloging issues I was facing. That was an area of library science that only real experts delve into, much less master.

Is it necessary to get your library science degree just to keep your collection in some sense of order? Of course not! But maybe learning some of the basic principles—either through library studies themselves or a related field like database design—might help to keep you from getting lost in your own collection and hunting down the same items over and over again!