We just brought live a Hebrew-language translation of LibraryThing, il.LibraryThing.com.
We’ve also added our first largely Hebrew-language source, the
Israel Union List, which includes the national library, all universities and many other public and private libraries. Unlike some of our sources, IUL records have the Hebrew or Arabic* scripts, not transliterations.
To our knowledge, this is the first time Hebrew-language book cataloging has been possible online. Certainly none of our 40+ competitors have Hebrew language sources—or generally any sources other than Amazon, but I digress. Of course, this is a small “market” (about 15 million speakers). But like some other communities we’ve gone after—Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Welsh—it’s a bookish one, and often multilingual to boot.
I’m particularly chuffed at how rapidly members’ have jumped in to translate the site. In less than day we’ve gone from completely untransalted (yellow text) to significantly so. Here are screen shots at 4pm yesterday and 11am today.
Lots of work remains, translating all LibraryThing’s “corners” and hammering out agreement on the terms—like “tag”—that trip every translation up. So far, much of the credit goes to one user, mirmir, behind whose cat are books in a number of languages. We hope LibraryThing can help her catalog her Hebrew—and Yiddish—books.
Work also remains on our side. Although the overall structure reverses well—to deal with Hebrew’s right-left directionality—some elements do not. Not all of this is easy for us to guess at, so we need your help on Talk. Check out the announcement and ongoing discussion in the בעברית LT in Hebrew group.
It’s also going to take some time to iron out all the cataloging issues. We’re confident that basic cataloging works, but we’ll need to be told about searching withing your catalog. As far as our “global level”—the level of works and combined authors—it’s going to take some time for us to knock the Latin-script bias out of our system. We are, however, strongly committed to doing that. After Hebrew, we plan to release Farsi, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. We’ve got to get this stuff right!
*For now, the IUL is our best Arabic language source. We have three others waiting in the wings—the American University of Cairo, Mubarak Public Library in Cairo and the library of the United Arab Emirates University. Unfortunately, we’re having search problems with all of them. We’re solving non-Latin search problems one by one, but, worse, these libraries appear to have relatively few records in Arabic script, rather than transliteration.
If you’re in the library world and interested in cataloging Arabic-language books we’d love your help finding libraries we can use. Unfortunately, we can’t use the web catalogs most libraries provide, but only libraries with a Z39.50 connection.