Tutorials and Extras

How to Sync Sources and Share Group Libraries with Zotero

Jack Dougherty

If you already know the basics on how to capture, manage, and cite sources with Zotero, then you’re ready for the next step. There’s lots of citation management tools out there, but one of the primary reasons I recommend the free and open-source Zotero tool from  CHNM is its automatic syncing service, and ability to share sources — with PDF attachments — in a group library, such as a class or research team. Here’s a quick tutorial, and see additional details on the Zotero support page.

Create a free Zotero account to sync your personal library
In your Zotero tool, go to the gear symbol > Preferences > Sync > Create Account (free). Then enter your new username & password into your Zotero sync preferences. Individual users receive a free 300MB Zotero File Storage account to automatically back up their personal library entries with attachments, with larger plans by paid subscription. The free storage account seems to be sufficient for most of my undergraduate students. (I’m a heavy Zotero user, with several thousand entires and PDF attachments, so I pay $60 a year for 6GB of synced file storage, which enables me to share widely with collaborators and also gives me off-site backup peace of mind.)

Access to the Dougherty Group Exchange Library

Anyone is welcome to view the Dougherty Group Exchange Library via the Zotero server website. Users can see individual entries (but not attachments), and cannot easily download into their personal Zotero libraries. Public access looks like this:

Students enrolled in my courses, or researchers working on related projects, are welcome to send a request to join the group library, which gives them read-write privileges to add/edit/share entries and attachments via their personal Zotero libraries.

To send a request to join a Zotero group library, create your personal Zotero account (above), go to the DoughertyGroupExchangeLibrary, click “Join Group,” and wait for me (the owner) to accept.

After you have been accepted, click the green Sync button to update your Zotero library. 

In your Zotero library window, see Group Libraries > DoughertyGroupExchangeLibrary, which holds subfolders with shared citations (including some with PDF attachments). The group library acts as an “exchange” site: members may drag entries from the group to their personal Zotero library, and in turn, add new entries to share with the group.


If you’re setting up a Zotero shared group library, then you’ll need to create the group, decide if it’s public (open or closed membership) or private, and manage membership requests if needed. Also, don’t forget this IMPORTANT step, which can only be accomplished by logging into your Zotero.org account: Go to your Group settings > Library Settings, and adjust the Library Editing and File Editing buttons if you wish to give other group members the ability to add/edit/remove Zotero entries and/or attached files (such as PDFs). Thanks to Brian Croxall for pointing this out to me.