LibraryThing, if you have a thing for libraries

LibraryThing. I’ve known about LibraryThing almost from the outset as it caused a real frisson of excitement among online cataloguing communities when it first appeared. So I know I went and had a look at it in the early days (oooh, back in 2006, when all this was fields….).

However, I had and still have no real desire to set up my own library there. As a full-time cataloguer, it feels a bit too much like a busman’s holiday. Plus I don’t think I’d live it down – I still haven’t been forgiven for shelving the CDs at home in alphabetical order (by main entry, naturally). I feel it makes things easier to locate in a collection of over 300 CDs, always assuming that CDs are returned to the right container *cough*. He feels it makes us look like “sad geeks”. This particular dilemma has been pretty much solved by iTunes, an iPod/laptop and hardly any need for a CD player any more.

For the purposes of Thing 15, I set up a personal account (it didn’t take me long to decide against an institutional account for my library, we can’t even get everything catalogued at work never mind in my spare time) and added some of my books. I seriously couldn’t contemplate starting with my book shelves. I think I am actually secretly worried that I’ll love it a bit too much and end up adding all my books. I do not have time to write reviews and rate books, though it was fun looking through the ratings and reviews that were already there. I went for a minimalist approach and added some of the books currently cluttering up neatly shelved on my bedside table. I didn’t even add them all as there was a shocking number of them and far too many kid’s books or advice on toddler-wrangling so it’s just a small selection.


My pathetic collection on LibraryThing

The only tag I added was “bedside table”. A surprisingly little used tag, only appearing 20 times – or am I the only person who uses the bedside table as a temporary holding area for books?

Creating the account and adding books was really easy. Much more interesting to me was all the reading recommended in Things 14 and 15 as it let me find out much more about developments in LibraryThing more recently, the philosophy behind their “cataloguing” searches, their new source for adding books (OverCat) and future developments. I’ve added the blogs to my rss feeds, in fact. I was reminded what all the enthusiastic (some may say “sad geeky”) chat was about when LibraryThing started.

I hadn’t known anything about LibraryThing for Libraries, and enjoyed seeing the catalogues that use the LTFL features like tags, reviews, covers (covers are provided free!). Mobile apps are coming too. It’s a way of Amazon-ifying the catalogue that is low-cost and compatible with most library management systems. In fact, for smaller libraries (church, groups, charity, etc) then LibraryThing can only be a Very Good Thing. I loved the Shelf Browse idea, to replicate some sense of browsing shelves by creating visual displays of book covers.

I had a look through some of the libraries using LibraryThing, I was surprised how many academic libraries in the UK were there (Keele, Staffs, Edge Hill, Leeds Metropolitan, the Open University).

Not something of direct relevance to my own work or even home library at the moment, but a very interesting Thing nonetheless. I was glad of an opportunity to spend time there.


4 comments so far

  1. Girl in the Moon on

    Yes, I use the bedside table (or shelves, as it may be) for books, although I’d never have thought of tagging them as such. It’s a very important location – what if one wakes up in the middle of the night suddenly desperate for a book?

    As for CDs, I certainly have my c. 250 filed alphabetically by main entry. The concept of main entry is a bit flexible, though – as it’s my own collection, I sometimes choose rather the one thing on the disc that I’m interested in, and not the disc title as a whole.

  2. Sarah Burton on

    Love this post as it rings so true and is so familiar. Love your library too Pratchett and David Nicholls… both books are so excellent; Pratchett is a genius, just for putting the Librarian in goal, and Nicholls One Day was incredibly moving, indescribably funny and again all too familiar.

  3. Library Wanderer on

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. I hadn’t had the opportunity to read this post before so am grateful for the nudge in this direction. And I might just have to invite a bit more controversy now by saying that I really didn’t get what all the ‘One Day’ fuss was about. As for why you weren’t visited by Tim–well, I think your views are probably more congruous with his views than mine, and your assessment of LT (assisted by the fact that you looked into LTFL) is far more balanced and defensible than mine!

    I was grateful also to have a look at the catalogues of some of the academic institutions listed above. I’m completely in favour of tagging and think that encouraging our readers to not only think critically about what they are reading but also to contribute to collaborative learning and research via social tagging would generate some really positive results both for them and for us. However, in spite of being a pro-tagging cataloguer, and so I suppose the ideal candidate for engaging in this, I’m not sure I’d ever be driven myself to tag books I’ve been reading for my MSc; and this makes me very sceptical about actually realising some of these admirable goals. Granted, it could just be that I’m lazy! But I agree with what’s being said on Niamh’s blog about the necessity of multitudes of tags to make this worthwhile, and am concerned that it will prove to be a bridge too far.

  4. Céline on

    Helen, it’s very kind of you to read this – I do know why I didn’t get comments from Tim. Too positive. I am working on being more negative simply to attract some attention to myself as I was just jealous 😉

    I have to admit that I love the idea of LT in general and LTFL but I also probably wouldn’t take the trouble to add tags or reviews. I wonder how many people will be sufficiently motivated to do it for our collections? It will be interesting to see. I think that was the real strength of LTFL – it uses the pre-existing vast collection of tags/reviews/ratings created by the much-more-motivated LT users.

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