Archive for the ‘legacy libraries’ Category

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Podcast 3: Murder! Politics! Books!

LibraryThing Podcast 3, which follows on the heels of the wildly successful*—if somewhat incoherent—LibraryThing Podcast 2, is an interview with Jeremy Dibbell, who runs the Legacy Library/I see Dead People’s Books project.

The (somewhat meandering) conversation explores the Legacy Library project, 18th century book tastes, the top-shared Legacy Library book (Jeremy guessed wrong a few times), what your books are saying about you, and related topics.

Here’s the direct link to the MP3: http://www.librarything.com/podcast/003.mp3

The Murder Part. Jeremy came to Portland to present at the New England Historical Association. His topic was the rediscovery/reconstruction of an important 18th-century library. The library belonged to George Wythe (LibraryThing Library, Wikipedia), a prominent Virginia politician/jurist and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Wythe, a slaveholder who ended his life an abolitionist, was poisoned by his grandnephew for the inheritance (the grandnephew had a serious gambling problem). The murderer got away because the testimony of free blacks was ruled inadmissible, but Wythe lived long enough to disinherit him.

Signing the Declaration of Independence, Wythe to the left

In his will, Wythe gave his extensive book collection to Thomas Jefferson (LibraryThing library), a longtime friend and former student. Jefferson received some 338 titles, of which he gave away 183 to relatives and acquaintances, and kept 155. Only a few dozen of these were known until now.

Jefferson’s inventory of Wythe’s library was recently identified by Jeremy and Endrina Tay, Associate Foundation Librarian for Technical Services at Monticello. See Jeremy’s post for more on Wythe’s library. Wythe’s LibraryThing catalog, based on Jeremy and Endrina’s work, is the first reconstruction of Wythe’s full library.

Using LibraryThing’s new comparison feature, you can compare Wythe’s library against other Legacy Libraries, other Signers of the Declaration of the Independence, or T. E. Lawrence.


*Actually, I have no idea how many people listened.

Labels: legacy libraries, podcasts

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Commune with the dead

Can you guess what they are?

I’ve made some major changes to members’ Legacy Library pages, bringing this wonderful member project—the private libraries of over 100 readers from the past—closer than ever before.

It has never been easier to compare the reading of Jefferson and Adams (427 books!), Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. And is has never before been possible to compare that of Tupac Shakur and LibraryThing’s Australian systems administrator John Dalton!

The core, default feature is a list of Legacy Libraries and the books they share with you. New features include:

  1. You can get it book-by-book, instead of person-by-person.
  2. From that, you can now see the top shared books across the Legacy Libraries, with you or any subset.
    The top books list is somewhat surprising. I’ve pasted it on the right, with the titles blacked out. See if you can guess number one. For combination reasons it’s not the Bible, but it’s probably not any of the others that leap immediately to mind. The top books between signers of the Declaration of Independence is also quite surprising. And why on earth did three American presidents bother to acquire General view of the agriculture in the county of Somerset?!
  3. The libraries are broken down into groups, so you can see what you share with actors, musicians, politicians, etc.
    Among these are the splinter project, the Libraries of Early America, which Jeremy, the Legacy Library project leader, is working on in collaboration with archives, libraries and museums across the country.
  4. You can filter everything in all sorts of clever ways.
  5. Although the page is a dynamic explorer, it provides a permalink to send to friends and a nifty “Share on Twitter” button. (Did you know you can enter your books through Twitter?)

Later today I’ll push out a podcast I did with Jeremy, a long but enjoyable romp through the legacy libraries, cataloging, the meaning of books through history and book-love generally.

Discussion going on here.

Labels: legacy libraries, new features

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Legacy Libraries: Call for Volunteers

As LT’s Legacy Libraries project continues to expand in scope (21 libraries have now been completed, with 27 more underway) and visibility (see Tim’s blog-post from Wednesday and this Talk thread), we’re always looking for a few good volunteers to assist in the various cataloging efforts. One of the most impressive things about these projects is the way people have come together to bring these fascinating collections into LT, creating a vibrant bibliosphere by making connections between books and their readers across time and space in new and really exciting ways.

There are a wide variety of open projects that could use some assistance, which I’ve listed below with contact info for the applicable ‘project managers.’ If you’d like to help out with any project, drop them (or me) a profile-message and we’ll provide you with all the necessary background and info. You can be as active as you like, there’s no need for a major time commitment (unless you’re so inclined, of course!).

Benjamin Franklin – See the LT group; contact Katya0133 or pdxwoman.
Carl Sandburg – Contact KCGordon.
Sir Walter Scott – Contact thorold.
B.H. Liddell-Hart – Contact jmnlman or donogh.
W.B. Yeats – See this Talk thread.
Theodore Dreiser – Contact brandonw.
John Dee – Contact jbd1.
Willa Cather – See the LT group.
William Congreve – See this Talk thread; contact prosfilaes.

Even beyond these, there are a small number of projects which are currently quiet; if you’re interested in picking up where others left off, contact me and we’ll get that set up.

Anyone should also feel free to add to the list of proposed libraries on the project wiki, and if you’re interested in starting a project, just follow the steps outlined in the Cataloging Guide or contact me for additional info on getting underway.

Back in May, in preparation for writing an article about the Legacies projects, I asked the members of the ISDPB group “What’s your motivation?” All of the responses were great, but my favorite came from jjlong, who said in part “I do feel like I’m contributing to something lasting…. sometime, somewhere, someone will want to know – out of scholarly, or personal, interest – what poets John Muir read, which Spanish Civil War books Hemingway owned, what Adams read in French. Used to be you’d have to trek to a library in Boston or Washington or London, or try to run down a copy of, say, Millicent Sowerby’s book; we’re making this information available to anyone, anywhere – and, more importantly, in an easily searchable and browsable form, filled with links, statistics, covers, author info (thanks to LT).”

Couldn’t say it better myself. But don’t take our word for it – jump in and see for yourself!

Labels: legacy libraries

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The Guardian on “I See Dead People’s Books” / Wikimania

Graeme Allister of The Guardian‘s Books blog did a sweet piece on the Legacy Library project, pointing out some wonderful incongruities:

“[I]t’s a fascinating glimpse into a writer when an incongruous book appears; as the poet responsible for some of the 20th century’s most heart-rending poems, a celebration of the Marx Brothers was a treat to see on W. H. Auden’s shelves.”

Legacy Libraries is a typical LibraryThing side-project—interesting, slightly off-kilter and stitched together by a cadre of passionate obsessives. (Its leader and most passionate cataloger is Jeremy Dibbell.) Like LibraryThing itself, it was laughed-off initially but is growing into something more than anyone expected.

I think I know why. On the web more is different and connected is different. Most—but not all—the Legacy Libraries were available in some offline form. You could, for example, find Sowerby’s printed catalog of Thomas Jefferson’s books in most research libraries. But something new happens on when anyone, from a high school student to you, whoever you are, can browse and search Jefferson’s books, in his classification and with his notes, at any time of the day, stack your own books up against Jefferson’s, or compare both to scores of other famous statesmen, writers, queens, pornographers and rappers.

In other news, I’m currently on a train to New York, from which I fly to Athens, with a day-long layover, and then Alexandria, Egypt, where I am due to talk at Wikimania 2008, the annual Wikipedia/Wikimedia conference. I’m talking on “LibraryThing and Social Cataloging.”

I plan to center my talk on how LibraryThing’s social production, or “Social Cataloging,” stacks up against the Wikipedia model and similar projects. I think there are some interesting similarities, and more interesting departures.

For more thoughts on Wikimania and Wikipedia see Thingology.

Labels: dead people, guardian, legacy libraries, Wikimania