Archive for the ‘member projects’ Category

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Interview with Keith Goddard at Books Matter

LT members who’ve been around for a year or so may remember our partnership with Books Matter, an organization dedicated to providing books to needy schools in Ghana. I caught up with Keith Goddard—founder of Books Matter—this week, who was kind enough to update me on their latest projects!

Interested in donating to Books Matter? Drop me a line at to donate books, or visit their website for monetary donations.

Can you tell us a bit about how Books Matter got started?

Basically, three things happened. First, my wife was sending some items to Ghana (that’s where she’s from) and she suggested we send some books and other things that my kids no longer used. The second thing is that she had always told me that many school in Ghana have no books. That really shocked and amazed me. The third thing is that I am a teacher in the Toronto public school system and I noticed that a lot of books are lying around in schools and not being used. So, I gathered up about 800 books and that was the start.

What is the process involved in getting a shipment of books sent? How many books can you send to Ghana at once?

We don’t have a lot of room at our house, which is where we store the books. Once we get to about 2,000 books our sunroom becomes unusable, so we are encourged to clear them out. Then we have to scan them, pack them, and raise enough money to send them. There’s no limit on how many we can send at a time, but due to the storage issue, we think around 2,000 is a good number.

In its first year, Books Matter sent 6,000 books to Ghana. That’s great! Did you anticipate that you’d have this much success?

I didn’t really know what to expect. Sometimes I think 6,000 is great and other days I feel that it’s nothing. I wish we could help meore people, but that being said, I know that the people we have helped are appreciative.

How many schools/libraries have received books from Books Matter now, and where are they? (Click map to enlarge)

So far, five institutions have received books from us: Bright Future School, in Keta; a library in Keta; a college in Ho; an elementary/junior high near Ho; and, an orphanage near Kumasi.

You recently ran an Indiegogo campaign, and set out to get another 2,000 books sent. Have those reached their destination(s)? Will you be running another Indiegogo campaign any time soon?

We ran an Indiegogo campaign just before the New Year, and with that money we shipped 1,700 books to five schools, two of which have separate buildings for the junior high and elementary schools, but on the same land. So, those books were cataloged into separate libraries. So, it’s five schools, but seven libraries. I hope that makes sense. Those books should arrive in late April. Since then we’ve received more books and would like to send about 1,500 in April. We’ve packed about 1,000 and scanned about 700. We scan the books we send to most of our recipients, but not all. Probably over 80%.

What are some of your and/or the students’ favorite books that Books Matter has sent?

We’ve sent some great books so far, but I hope we can get more book donations, from publishers, once we are an official charity. One thing that is difficult to do, but that I want to do, is get more feedback from the students about the books and their reading
habits, and how those habits are (hopefully) changing. I’d probably have to check some of the catalogs on LT to remember what we’ve sent! Good thing I cataloged them. We’ve sent a lot of great science and non-fiction picture books, fact books, and there are very few books like that in most Ghana schools. I think those will have a big impact on a lot of younger kids, even if they are reluctant readers, because the topics are so diverse and often relevant. We also sent a first edition And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street… lots of Dr. Seuss. It would be wonderful if any LT members thought there were certain must-have books for youngsters, that they wanted to donate, and maybe write a litte note in the front; they would just have to ship it to us in Toronto.(1)

What’s your personal library like? What sorts of books can be found on your shelves?

My personal library is really nothing to talk about… a fair number of biographies/memoirs about people in developing countries overcoming extreme adversity. Lots of non-fiction.

What have you read and enjoyed lately?

I like having about five books on the go at once, partly because I have trouble sticking with things sometimes! Also, because I enjoy such a wide variety and that’s the big reason I think kids should have a lot of books at their disposal to check out and become interested by. Having an e-reader is great, but that’s different than browsing through shelves of books, and touching them and flipping through them. That’s how kids catch the reading spark. That, and being read to. I just finished 12 Years a Slave and am now reading a modern day slavery account, called Slave by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis. I’m also reading a book on how to use YouTube for marketing.

What’s next for Books Matter? Do you have the next milestone, upcoming projects/shipments, etc. in mind?

We’ve always got shipments in mind. We’d like to hear from some of the schools where we’ve donated and make subsequent donations based on their likes and needs. I would love to go back to Ghana sometime in the future and oberve the kids, talk to them about reading, read with them, and talk to the teachers about reading/teaching strategies. It would be great to give more support than just putting the books in front of people. That’s not always enough, especially if they haven’t already developed the reading bug. That’s why sending the picture books and easy readers for the very young children is so important.

I’d like to thank Keith for taking the time to chat with me! Books Matter is doing excellent work, and it’s a joy to work with them!

—interview by Loranne Nasir

1. As mentioned above, if you have books you’d like to send to Books Matter, be sure to send Loranne an email (

Labels: books for ghana, gifts, member projects

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Little Free Libraries, BookCrossing Zones and more in LibraryThing Local

Short Version:

LibraryThing members have banded together to add all known “Little Libraries,” including Little Free Libraries®, BookCrossing Zones™, the Dutch project “Minibieb” and others to LibraryThing Local, LibraryThing’s index and map of over 87,000 bookstores, libraries and other bookish places. Members have already added 749 of them. A slew of new features supports the project.

Check it out:

SqueakyChu‘s library, The Little Free Library of Twinbrook, in Rockville, MD

Long Version:

A long-time member, SqueakyChu, recently requested that we add Little Free Libraries (LFLs) to LibraryThing Local. Apparently the LFL people have been unable to keep up with all the new libraries, and have fallen months behind. Their own map is also limited compared to LibraryThing’s robust feature set. And having LFLs in LibraryThing Local would allow LibraryThing members to discover them, as well as users of our Readar iPhone app.

If you don’t know, Little Free Libraries is a grassroots movement sweeping the country and the world. “Stewards” build or buy them, set them up somewhere, often in their front yards, and fill them with books. Visitors take and leave books as they wish. BookCrossing, around since 2001(!), is a similar concept, encouraging and tracking the free exchange of books from reader to reader. Books can be released “into the wild” anywhere, but “BookCrossing Zones” (BCZs) are special spaces set up to facilitate this exchange.

We’ve discussed similar efforts before, and approached both organizations for a feed, without success. We’d love to work with either or both, and will (of course) share our data. But we’re not going to wait. We want people to know about these great projects, and all the other informal sharing libraries out there. So we jumped in. Before releasing it, we had our “Board for Extreme Thing Advances” group to work on it, and they added almost 700 venues, and worked out all the conventions we needed.

Little Free Libraries in Connecticut

New features

How do I add venues?

If you’re interested in adding Little Libraries, here are some resources:

Little Free Libraries

  • Members have set up a Wiki Page, recording what states and countries have already been entered, and which haven’t
  • Check out the discussion topic, where members hash out conventions and trade tips

BookCrossing Zones

We’re still figuring out how to find and add all official and unofficial zones. If you’re interested, join the conversation.

Other libraries

“Little Libraries” is for small collections of every type, not just book exchanges. The Dutch projects MiniBieb and Boekspots are closely analogous to Little Free Libraries, so they fit. But, as I’ve written before, cities and towns throughout the world are filled with such collections, from coffee shops to churches, from community centers to advocacy groups. At present we’re focusing on fully “public” venues, but the many types available to choose from means it can all go in, with suitable filters for what you want and what you don’t want.

Come Talk about this project.

Labels: librarything local, local books, member projects, new feature, new features

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Melvil Decimal System View in Your books

We’ve just added some handy new browsing functions to our Melvil Decimal System (MDS).

What is MDS? MDS is the Dewey Decimal System, Melvil Dewey’s innovative classification system, as it has been applied to books in LibraryThing members’ books. The base system is the Free Decimal System, a public domain classification created by John Mark Ockerbloom. The wording comes from out-of-copyright sources.

Here are some examples:

What’s new? You can now easily examine the MDS classifications of the books in your library, using the Melvil Decimal System view (accessible via the “Your books” tab; click the little divot to the right of Tags to show the available views).

When you click on one of the ten top-tier MDS classifications, you’ll see the books in your library which have been assigned to that level, and the second tier of MDS classifications will also display. You can continue drilling down through all five tiers of MDS classification.

See Tim’s books by MDS view at, or yours at

We’ll probably be adding some bells and whistles to this feature as we go forward. We’re planning to add a similar Library of Congress view of your library soon, so watch for that as well!

Come discuss in Talk.

Dewey, Dewey Decimal, Dewey Decimal Classification, DDC and OCLC are registered trademarks of OCLC. Read more about OCLC and the DDC on their website. LibraryThing is not affiliated with OCLC, but we have the same hatter.

Labels: features, member projects, new features

Monday, October 25th, 2010

LibraryThing is hiring: Are you bookish and social-media savvy?

madinkbeard‘s beloved “We Heart LibraryThing” entry in a 2007 photo contest.

LibraryThing is hiring a bookish, social-media savvy employee. We want someone passionate about books and about book lovers, and excited to take social cataloging and bookish social networking to the next level. LibraryThing takes a different approach to social media, and the job is a step above the usual “social media manager” position with its overtones of being “the face” of a company, and of manipulation and fakeness.

This is a Portland, Maine position exclusively. We want someone who can come into the office most days. If we find the right candidate, we will help you relocate. Portland is a great place to live.

You must be:

  • Deeply familiar with social media
  • Able to write well and quickly
  • Able to work and set goals independently
  • Able to think big, but also handle details
  • Hard-working, smart, driven, optimistic, organized and productive
  • A passionate bibliophile

We’d appreciate:

  • LibraryThing membership, familiarity
  • Librarian, bookseller, publishing or other book-industry background
  • Experience designing software features or interfaces
  • Technical skills (HTML, CSS, SQL, PHP, etc.)
  • No cheese allergies


  • Write newsletters and blog posts
  • Suggest and help develop new features and projects
  • Look for new opportunities and set priorities for yourself and others
  • Work with publishers, authors and other actors (eg., coordinate and expand the Early Reviewer program)
  • Attend trade shows and so forth, at need
  • Maintain LibraryThing’s presence on Twitter, Facebook and other social media


Salary plus gold-plated health and dental insurance. We require hard work, but we are flexible about hours.

How to apply:

Resume is good. Don’t send one of those overboiled cover letters, but a brief introduction would be good, followed perhaps by recapitulating the bullets above and saying briefly how they do or don’t fit you. Send emails to

Labels: jobs, member input, member projects, social cataloging, social networking

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Introducing the LibraryThing books API

See bottom of post for updates…

I’ve just finished a first draft of a JSON-based API for book data, created a test page and typed up some basic documentation.

What is this for? The API gives you Javascript access to your book data. The most obvious use of this would be to create new, much better widgets. At first, we expect this to interest programmers, but as new widgets are developed, non-programmers will get cool things. I started by redoing our traditional widgets in a new way here. That’s the base, not the ceiling!

How does it work? Every user can retrieve their data, in JSON format—basically as a ready-made JavaScript data structure. You control what is returned—books, tags, ratings, etc.—how it’s sorted and so forth. By default we give you a standard library of functions to parse and display the data. You can use it, build on it or start from scratch. Find out more here.

What’s great? All our code for processing the JSON API has been and will be released as open source—available for use, reuse and modification. Better—since we’re not the best programmers, particularly in JavaScript!—we are requiring any software that builds upon the API to be released under similar terms, so everyone can take advantage of improvements and advances. 

Does this make code look sexy?

What’s the catch? The API is not intended for making backups or exporting your data to other programs. For that, use our CSV and TSV export functions, from the Tools tab. We are licensing the JSON API for browser-use only. This is about our data licenses. In-browser widgets have never drawn ire from our data providers.

Where can this go? This is just getting started. Everything can be expanded and improved. As members want new or different data, I will be only too happy to add it to the API. But the most interesting development will probably come from members, not LibraryThing employees.

I have created a LibraryThing API Development group to discuss the API, work through code and come up with new ideas.

At a minimum, I can see:

  • New widget types, like widgets showing your most recent reviews.
  • Widgets that take you to libraries, and other places other than LibraryThing. (Libraries have been clamoring for this for ages. Many use LibraryThing to feature new books on the website, and want the links to go to their catalog, not LibraryThing.)
  • New result sets, for your tags or authors (separate from our books), your book’s works, series info, etc.
  • Integration with other JS-based APIs, like Google Book Search.

What if I’m not a programmer? No problem. Come and LibraryThing API Developmenttell us what you want. We’ll help you, or maybe someone else will.

UPDATE: I’ve made some changes to the programming, changing how the code is structured and adding result sets for reading dates. We also have the first outside use of the API, a very promising—if not perfect—cover flip test by MMcM (here). Follow what’s going on in the LibraryThing API Development group.

Labels: api, apis, books api, javascript, json, member projects