Archive for the ‘new feature’ Category

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Music and movie cataloging (but we’re still a book site)

Short version: LibraryThing is and will remain a book site. But we never stopped people from cataloging other media, like movies and music. We’re now making it much easier to do. Check it out and add your non-book library at https://www.librarything.com/addbooks.

Medium version: LibraryThing is a book site, and will remain so. But many members, especially our small libraries, have always cataloged other media, such as movies and music. We allowed it, but didn’t support it well at all. In particular, we disabled non-book searching on Amazon, allowing it only on our library sources.

A few months ago we introduced a robust concept of media format. We’ve now opened up cataloging other media on the Amazon sources, which are far easier and better for the purpose.

Check it out at https://www.librarything.com/addbooks

trash_moviesmusic

Long version:

Why Are We Doing This? Adding other media has been planned for years. The main driver has been small libraries—churches, community centers, small museums, etc.—a major constituent of LibraryThing’s success. Although small libraries mostly collect books, they don’t limit themselves to books any more than public and academic libraries do. Our failings in the area really hurt us.

This change means that LibraryThing is now a “complete” cataloging system. This lets us reach small libraries as we never could before—something we plan to do even more strongly when TinyCat debuts.

We are also conscious that many “regular” members wanted to catalog their non-book libraries. I want to, anyway, and I know I’m not alone.

Worried? We are conscious of some members’ worries, for example that LibraryThing is “turning into” a movie site. These are valid concerns. Here’s how we responded and will respond:

Screenshot 2015-09-14 14.16.30
Movies have been on LibraryThing for a long time.
  • LibraryThing is a site for book lovers and readers. This isn’t going to change.
  • Books get me and the rest of the team up in the morning. That isn’t going to change.
  • LibraryThing has had movies and music since the beginning—hundreds of thousands are already cataloged. Directors and composers have had author pages since the beginning. The recommendations system has recommended movies and music since the beginning. If movies “pollute” LibraryThing, it’s been polluted for a long time.
  • Now, however, we know what’s a book, a movie, and so forth. Knowing means we can adapt the site’s features to deal with that. As a start, by popular request, we’ve changed our site search to “facet” by format. Other accomodations, like a way to refuse all non-book recommendations, can certainly be considered.
  • We don’t expect a crushing influx of non-book media or members. But if LibraryThing appeals to new people who want to catalog all their media, that isn’t a bad thing.

New Features. The following features have been added, or changed, in order of importance.

  • Add Books sources now include music, movies and combined sources for all the Amazon national sites (e.g., “Amazon.com books, music and movies”).
  • To build awareness, we’ve added one “Amazon books, music and movies” source to all members’ sources. If you don’t want it, the new Add Books sources system makes it easy to delete. There are also sources for just movies and just music.
  • Amazon-added movies and music have covers, based on the ASIN, not the ISBN. This change also gives LibraryThing ebook covers.
  • We’ve added media-based faceting in site search.
  • You can search both Amazon and Overcat by UPC.

Cataloging Non-Books Media. Movies and music aren’t books, but libraries catalog them with some of the same basic structure and concepts. Movies and music have titles, publication dates, subjects, Dewey classifications, etc. “Authors” is more complex. Library records generally mix directors, actors, producers and screenwriters into one set of contributors, with their roles not always marked. Amazon records are better here, clearly delineating the various roles. But they don’t have the name-control libraries have.

We’ve solved this as follows:

  • When possible, movies get director as their main author. This is always possible with Amazon records, but not with library records.
  • We’ve improved how we handle author names from Amazon, leveraging Amazon data against what we know from tens of millions of library records. So, for example, we’re handing “The Beatles” as “The Beatles” not “Beatles, The.” This change improves Amazon cataloging generally.
  • Where listed, actors, producers, musicians and so forth get secondary author status and roles. This means that actors have LibraryThing author pages. (But they had them before, as noted above. If this proves a problem, we can mark them somehow as a site-wide feature.)
  • We’ve improved media format detection of MARC records within Overcat, especially for odd MARC formats, like DANMARC (a specialized MARC format used in—you guessed it—Denmark).

Let Us Know. Let us know what you think on Talk.

Labels: cataloging, new feature, new features

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Sneak Peek: TinyCat for Small Libraries

tc_wordmark_lt_700

We’ve done a lot of hinting about unveiling some big news at ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco this week, and now, we’re giving you a sneak peek… at TinyCat.

What is TinyCat? TinyCat turns LibraryThing into a powerful, simple, online catalog for so-called “tiny libraries” (less than 20,000 titles).

These smallest libraries—churches, synagogues, small schools, community centers, academic departments, etc.—have been using LibraryThing to catalog their collections for almost a decade. That continues with TinyCat. TinyCat offers a new way to view the catalog that’s cleaner and focused on helping patrons find and discover books in your library.(1)

TinyCat is:

  • Simple. TinyCat is simple and clean. Faceted searching adds power.
  • Mobile. TinyCat looks and works great on every device and platform.
  • Flexible. TinyCat supports all media types, not just the books that drive LibraryThing.
  • Professional. Import and export MARC records. Track patrons and show item status.
  • Secure. HTTPS always.
  • Enhanced. TinyCat includes the best, most useful enhancements LibraryThing can offer—more than almost any “big-library” catalog has.

Screenshots (click images for large size)

search_partial

detail_partial

Method to our madness? It’s no coincidence that we’ve been rolling out lots of new features lately, many of which have been necessary to make TinyCat possible (think Barcode Support, Circulation, Advanced Search and now New Feature: MARC Import). There’s still more to come. We couldn’t be more excited.

TinyCat is coming soon. (We were aiming for ALA, so it’s very close.)

See us at ALA. Stop by booth 3634 at ALA Annual this weekend in San Francisco to talk to Tim and Abby and see TinyCat live. (We’ll show it with your collection, if you have one.)

If you need a free pass to the exhibit hall, details are in this blog post.

Interested? If you’re a librarian of a small library who might be interested in beta testing TinyCat, get in touch! Drop us an email at info@librarything.com.


1. In library terms, TinyCat is the OPAC (“Online Public Access Catalog”), and LibraryThing is the ILS (“Integrated Library System.”)

Labels: new feature, new features, small libraries, TinyCat

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

New: Printed Library Barcode Labels

IMG_5312

IMG_5305

Keep track of your books like a pro.

Yesterday we released our new Barcode support feature along with our new Take Inventory feature for Your Books. Good things come in threes, so today we bring you a new product to our Store lineup—printed barcodes!

Why barcodes? Barcodes are for tiny libraries and private individuals who want to keep better track of their books. Slap a barcode on a book and you’ve got a readable, scannable, unique number forever. Once its got a number, you can do inventory and lend books the right way.

For regular users, a small barcode, on the back cover or inside, is an excellent way to know when you’ve cataloged a book and when you haven’t.(1) Users who want to do inventory can add them to all their books, or just to the ones without scannable back-cover ISBNs.

Where do I get them? You can order your own custom barcodes right here in our Store:

Price

  • We’re charging $10.00 for the first 500 labels, and $5.00 for each additional set of 500.
  • That’s 20-25% of what traditional vendors, like Follett, charge.(2)
  • No really, this is a steal!

Other details

  • Quality. Our labels are acid-free, premium stock for archival use. They have a pH-neutral, permanent, pressure-sensitive adhesive.
  • Size. The labels are 1 1/4 x 5/8 inches. That’s small enough to be visually inconspicuous, but it fits numbers up to 100,000 easily. They come in sheets of 100 (102, actually, because math).
  • Symbology. We chose Code 39, perhaps the most common library barcode format. The codes also include the number, written out, in case the barcode won’t scan.
  • Customization. You can add your own text above the code, such as your name or LibraryThing ID (up to 25 characters). You can also add a tiny LibraryThing icon ( ) before your text. Or you can go for barcode-only labels.
  • CueCat Support? The LibraryThing barcodes work great with LibraryThing’s super-cheap CueCat scanners. LibraryThing search and Take Inventory features even read unmodified CueCat codes.

Go ahead and check it out.

You can read more about using barcodes in Your Books here. And of course join our discussion on Talk!

Here are some more photos:

IMG_5317IMG_5315IMG_5312IMG_5310IMG_5309IMG_5308IMG_53052015-06-15 13.15.422015-06-15 13.12.222015-06-15 13.09.372015-06-15 13.04.022015-06-15 12.53.332015-06-15 12.51.302015-06-15 12.44.42

1. Other members use our stamp or mini-stamp.
2. Comparable barcodes cost about that much. In fairness, however, if you spend even more from these companies you can get more durable barcodes, intended for high-circulation public collections.

Labels: barcodes, new feature, new features, small libraries

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

New Feature: Barcode support

scanner_photo2

Keep track of your books like a pro.

Two big features in one day? Yup. And we’ll have a big product announcement tomorrow!

Short version. We’ve just added barcode support for your books, and a barcode settings page. If your books are already barcoded, or if you want to add barcodes, this is the feature for you.

Long version. In a few short weeks, we’ll be announcing a new feature, specially designed for “tiny” libraries—those small collections found in churches, historical societies, community centers, academic departments, classrooms and so forth.

To prepare for that day, we are releasing another feature that tiny libraries will find useful: comprehensive support for inventory barcodes.

Inventory barcodes go nicely with our other new feature Take Inventory.

Why use barcodes? Besides small collections, barcode inventory may appeal to many regular users. Regular users may not want to barcode every book—scanning the ISBN barcode works great too. But barcode labels make non-ISBN books much easier to inventory.

(Now, “where do I get cheap barcode labels?” I hear you ask. Ask me again tomorrow, will ya?)

Using Barcodes.

fields

Editing Barcodes. Editing barcodes in your catalog is as simple as double-clicking. If you’ve elected for sequential numbers, you can click to get the next one. Or just add the barcode you see. There are no rules, except that every barcode must be unique among your books.

catalog

Setting the Rules. The rules for barcodes got so large that we gave it it’s own page. You can edit your Barcode settings at LibraryThing Settings > Barcodes.

In addition to settings, you can also bulk-add barcodes on this page (under “Actions”). If you don’t already have barcodes, the easiest thing to do is to add barcodes to your whole collection, then apply the labels to your books one-by-one.

settings

This feature was primarily created by me (TimSpalding). Come and Discuss this feature on Talk.

Labels: barcodes, new feature, new features, small libraries

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

New Feature: Advanced Search

A few months ago we introduced a new search syntax, allowing you to execute complex searches like:

tag: history author: gibbon

We’ve now added a handy, “Advanced Search” feature, more like that offered by many traditional library catalogs.

You can find it in the search options in “Your Books”:

Screenshot 2015-05-14 10.48.42

It opens up a box like this:

Screenshot 2015-05-14 10.48.14

When you search it converts your advanced search options into the text syntax, so it’s also a way of showing how that works.

Let us know what you think on Talk.

Labels: new feature, new features, search, small libraries

Friday, March 20th, 2015

New Drag and Drop Catalog Style Editing

We’ve updated how you can arrange the fields in your catalog. What was formerly a collection of drop-down menus has been converted to a drag and drop method. Questions or comments? Tell us all about it on Talk.

Test it out and update your catalog styles here!

Here’s what it looks like now:

Details

You’ll still have up to five customizable display styles, A-E as pictured, with a maximum of 14 fields in each style. Now, instead of having to adjust five or six drop-down menus in order to add a field to the middle of a style, or completely rearrange the order in which the fields appear, all you have to do is drag and drop!

You can drag fields over to a style from the collapsible menu on the right side of the page. This menu categorizes various fields according to type/function: “Physical” contains all the options for dimensions of the book, “Classification” features call numbers, Lexile measures, and so on. You can even drag fields from one display style into another, although doing so will remove that field from the original style.

You can reach your Display Style Settings from either the handy little “Settings” button at the top of Your Books, or by clicking the “Settings” that appears in the upper-right corner, just below the site search bar, when you’re signed in and on the LibraryThing home page, or your profile.

Go see it in action and come tell us what you think on Talk!

Labels: new feature, new features, Uncategorized

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Your Call Number System

I’ve added a feature so members and small libraries can record your own primary call-number system–the one that you actually use, if you use one.

callnumber-2

You can then add a new field, “Call number” to your display styles:

callnumber-3

You do this here, at Settings > Other settings.

Why do this? Well, a few reasons.

  1. Your styles can include a “Call number” field, which visitors will find easier to understand.
  2. If you set it to Library of Congress (LCC) or Dewey (DDC/MDS), then you can change the “Call number” column and it will change your LCC or DDC.
  3. If you set it to “Personal or custom system” you can add, edit and show your own private call numbers, without bothering to edit another system.
  4. If you set it to one of the many others (Bliss, Cutter Expansive, etc.) you can add your own numbers, and at some point in the future we may be able to improve on that with additional data from library records. If not data, we can at least code the rules for sorting other classifications.

Here are the options. Feel free to suggest others. Note that nothing has been taken away here. You can continue to use DDC, LCC and now a new private call-number system without obstacles.

callnumber-1

Come talk about this on Talk.

Labels: new feature, new features, small libraries, Uncategorized

Friday, February 20th, 2015

New Feature: Lending (a.k.a. “Circulation”)

circulation-lendingboxWe’ve just released a major new feature: lending tracking, or, as libraries call it, “circulation.”

Why are we doing this?

Regular members have long called for a simple way to track lending. But the strongest calls have come from the many small libraries that use LibraryThing–community centers, classrooms, museums, churches, synagogues, ashrams, health centers, masonic temples, etc. We’ve got a list of some our favorites.

Simple but Strong

Although simple to use, “Lending” was designed to be powerful enough for small libraries. Rather than just a field for a name, it’s a full system, with:

  • Who checked something out and when
  • Due dates and “overdue” status
  • “On hold,” “missing” an custom statuses
  • Summary information by transaction, status and patron
  • Control over what status information visitors see

Here’s a video I made explaining it:

If you don’t want to watch the video, or want more information, here it is in text.

Come talk to us about it here on Talk.

Where can I find it?

Members who haven’t changed their catalog display styles will find the “Lending” column on style “B.” To add it to a style, go to “Settings.” (This used to be just a “cog” graphic next to the styles.)

circ_bar_1and2

You can find Lending summary information as a mode, together with tags, authors, etc.

circ_bar_1

Here’s how it looks in the catalog. Double-click to add or change a book’s lending status. Although there are a lot of fields, everything is optional. If you just want to track in/out, with no names or dates or due-dates, that’s fine:
circulation-catalog

Here’s what lending looks like on book pages–a little “book-pocket” icon () to edit lending status, and, if the book has a status, an area for showing it.
circulation_bookpage

Here’s what it looks to add a status:
circulation-newstatus

Selecting the “Lending” menu within the catalog () shows you summary and transaction information.
circulation-transactions

There are a lot of options here:
circulation-patronscirculation-statuscirculation-dewey

There’s also a “Lending Summary” section for your home page, available under Home > Books:
Homepage

Thanks. Come talk to us about it here on Talk.

PS: This was a joint effort between myself and Ammar, who did great work, with some help from Chris Holland and others.

Labels: libraries, new feature, new features, small libraries

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Better recommendations: Display

Over the next week or so we’ll be talking a lot about recommendations on LibraryThing and LibraryThing for Libraries. We’ve been doing a lot of work on this part of the site, and will be rolling out a number of improvements.

Today we’re debuting a new system for showing recommendations on works.

Check it out:

  1. Recommendations page for The Fault in Our Stars
  2. Recommendations page for Archaeology and Language
  3. Work page for Code Name Verity

And come talk about it on Talk.

Details. The first change is to the “brief” display on work pages. We have a new way of showing a “shelf,” with both cover and title. We think this is more appealing—to more users—than the previous text-only system.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.51.09

You can expand to “see more,” to get two more rows, then “see all” to get ten or more. The deeper you go the less confident we are that the recommendation is a good one. But our recommendations are often quite good deep.

If it’s not more appealing to you, you can see the recommendations as text, with series “tucked under.”

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.51.48

If you want to keep it that way, click the “edit” pencil. To keep the number of icons down, you’ll only get this if you click to change views. (Not everyone will like this. I do.)

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.54.27

Besides “covers” and “text” you can also choose to vote on recommendations, as before.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.55.46

The new way of seeing recommendations has transformed the “All recommendations” subpage. (Here’s the ugly, list-y thing it looked like before.) To the various recommendation types we’ve added “More by this author,” which sorts the authors books by their algorithmic similarity to the book in quesiton, and “‘Old’ Combined Recommendations” for members seeking to compare the old algorithms with the new.

As before, this page shows all the different elements that make up LibraryThing’s “main” (or “combined”) recommendations.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.58.44

And come talk about it on Talk.

A note on authors and repetition. Algorithmic recommendations are something between a science and an art. There’s a lot of math involved, some of it very complex indeed. But the mathematically “right” answer isn’t much good if it’s boring. So, mathematically, one James Patterson book is statistically most similar to two dozen other James Patterson books before and other author can contribute a book. But who wants to see row after row of that?

Turning math into something stimulating and diverse, yet credible, is complex process. In this case, the same-author problem is addressed not in the initial data, but “at display,” by limiting how many times an author may appear on a given line. You can see this, for example, in the recommendations for The Fault in Our Stars, which restrains John Green from taking over, or Horns, which restrains Joe Hill, but also Steven King, Justin Cronin and others.

Because of differences in screen size, members will now sometimes be presented with slightly different recommendations lists, as books get pushed between rows. We think the drawbacks there are outweighed by the visual benefits of not overloading members wih repetitive recommendations.

Labels: design, new feature, new features, recommendations, Uncategorized

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement III: Better “Sort character” support

Short version: We’ve added more tools for specifying how titles should sort.

Background: LibraryThing has been sorting “The Road” under “R” not “T”, and allowing members to change where the sorting “starts” since 2007. Mostly, the system gets it right in the first place, especially if you use library data, whose records contain information on “non-filing characters” (within the 245 field, second indicator, of course). If it doesn’t, super-knowledeable members use the “pipe trick,” changing a title like Die Fleledermaus to Die ||Fledermaus, to mark the start of sorting explicitly.

Bringing Sort Characters into the Open. To improve understanding and use of the feature, and to help troubleshoot when LibraryThing choses poorly, we’ve decided to expose the “sort character” (a.k.a. “non-filing characters,” “sort offset,” etc.).*

You can now add the field to one of your “Your Books” views:

cataloglist

Edit and manual entry now get a tiny drop-down menu (on the right), so you can see and change the sort character number. (We aimed for inconspicuous enough not to frighten newbies, but not entirely hidden.)

bookedit

We’ve also improved the “pipe trick” by making the pipes invisible under normal circumstances. For example, here’s a book in “Your Books.”

pipe1

And here it is, with pipes, when you double-click to edit.

pipe2

In practice, pipes always disable and/or override the sort-chracter number.

Come talk about this feature on talk.


* I asked for help naming the feature. The geeky-cutest was definitely Chris Holland’s “alphabit.”

Labels: new feature, new features, small libraries, Uncategorized