Friday, April 4th, 2008

What Books Do You Share with Hemingway?

Some updates from the Legacy Libraries front: yesterday saw the completion of the largest LT-Legacy catalog to date, that of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s library (compiled by Dr. James D. Brasch and Dr. Joseph Sigman of McMaster University, and provided online [PDF] through Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library) included more than 7,000 titles (7,411 to be exact). A small team of dedicated Thingambrarians has been entering them since 4 January: many thanks to nperrin, who initiated the project; spookykitten (who added about 2,450 books); christiguc (2,350); Rullakartiina (1,350); and jjlong (1,200). Amazing work for a three-month period!

You can read more about the Hemingway effort at this talk thread; they’re looking for tagging assistance and offer some suggestions for where to read more about Hemingway and his books. It’s a fascinating and very wide-ranging collection, so if you have some time to browse through it, do.

Much removed from Hemingway’s library (so far removed, in fact, that they share no books at all) is the library of British scientist James Smithson (1765-1829), the man responsible for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. His books were included in the bequest he made to the United States, and they now reside in the vault of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History (digital gateway). There are currently 113 titles in the catalog; a few more will follow (I’m told that eight more books from Smithson’s library were recently found in the Library of Congress and are now making their way back to the Smithsonian).

I worked with the Smithsonian’s Martin Kalfatovic and Suzanne Pilsk on this project, and Martin has a post up on the SI blog about the addition of Smithson’s library. As one might expect, most of the books in Smithson’s collection are scientific tracts, but the catalog also includes some cookbooks, travel accounts, reference works, &c.

Hemingway and Smithson have been added to the “Overlap with Legacy Libraries” section of your stats page (introduced here).

We’ve also been continuing to enhance John Adams’ LT catalog since its unveiling; through the wonderful assistance of Boston Public Library staff we’ve been able to make transcriptions of much of John Adams’ fascinating marginalia widely available for the first time (see what he thought, for example, of Mary Wollstonecraft’s An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution) – his copy of the book contains more than 10,000 words written in the margins! I’ve also been adding comments from JA’s diary and other writings about specific authors or works; that’s going to be an ongoing process, but it’s at least underway.

You can keep track of progress on the various Legacy projects by clicking here.

[Update: Thingamabrarian spookykitten reports that the cataloging of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s library (322 books now held at Princeton) has also been completed. So you can now satisfy your curiosity and see how many books Fitzgerald and Hemingway share.]

Labels: dead people, john adams, legacies, special libraries

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Common Knowledge in your library

What just happened. Yesterday saw two huge announcements I’m loathe to “push down.”

(What it didn’t see was an April Fools message, although some took the 160% increase in sources for one! Does this mean we get to fool people later on this year?)

Common Knowledge in your library.

Today we’ve introduced our “Common Knowledge” feature directly into your catalog—allowing members to look at and edit series information, important places and the rest directly in their catalog.

To look at it, go to your catalog and choose the “edit” link to the right of the A, B, C, D, E styles. You’ll see a number of CK fields as options. To edit CK fields, just double-click in the cell. A CK editing “lightbox” will pop up (see right).

Some thoughts. On one level, this is a minor feature. The data was always a click away. But I suspect it will substantially change members’ relationship to Common Knowledge—and make it grow all the faster. Together with my introduction of pages for member’s series, CK now “does” something.

Caveats. Right now you can’t sort by CK fields, and you can’t search by them. Sorting is doable, although it will take some sort. Searching is going to be harder, frankly. But it’s not out of the question. Lastly, we still haven’t solved CK language issues, so you may get series information in a language you don’t understand.

Discuss it here
.

 

Labels: april fools, common knowledge, early reviewers, LTER, new feature, new features, new libraries

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

April Early Reviewer books

April’s batch of Early Reviewer books is up! This month features 66 different books from 33 different publishers, totaling 1,599 copies. It’s our biggest batch ever–I know, I said that last month, but apparently we grow fast around here!

Sign up to get a free advance copy, in exchange for writing a review. If you’re already signed up, make sure to check that your name and mailing address are correct (here). More help available in the Early Reviewers Frequently Asked Questions.

Then just go ahead and request books to read and review! The list of available books is here:
http://www.librarything.com/er/list

The deadline to request a copy is Tuesday, April 8th at 6pm EDT.

New and noteworthy things this round:

Audio books. We have our first audio book in this batch, (Elizabeth Berg’s The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted). Love listening? Tell us, and we’ll try to get more audio books included.

Author Chat. We’re about to debut a new feature, Author Chat. To start, Broadway Books is giving out copies of Tell Me Where it Hurts, Nick Trout’s new book about a day in the life of an animal hospital. Read it, review it, think about it. Then Nick will be on LibraryThing from April 14th through the 30th to answer questions, talk about his work, etc. More details on Author Chats to come, so stay tuned.

New Publishers. As I said, there are 33 different publishers participating this round. Thanks to all of them, and of course, thanks to the publishers that just keep giving us books!

AMACOM Andrews McMeel Publishing Ballantine Books
Beacon Press Bloomberg Press Broadway
Canongate Books Cleis Press Delacorte Press
Dell DiaMedica Egmont
Handsel Books Lantern Books Loving Healing Press
Manic D Press National Geographic North Atlantic Books
Picador Picnic Publishing Random House Audio Publishing Group
Random House Trade Paperbacks Shambhala South Dakota State Historical Society
St. Martin’s Griffin St. Martin’s Minotaur St. Martin’s Press
Staghorn Press Thomas Dunne Books Vertical
W.W. Norton William Morrow Wizards of the Coast Discoveries

You’ll also notice that a few of the books are already released. A few of publishers new to Early Reviewers decided to include some back-list titles as well as new ones, to kick things off. Though we generally prefer pre-publication books, we decided to allow these less “release-driven” titles into the program.

Make sure to check the flags to see whether you’re eligible to receive each book. Most books are open to residents of the US and Canada, several are open to residents of the UK only. Pay attention–only the flags will tell you which is which!

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

669 Data Sources!

In our continued quest to give our members the best data possible, we’ve added 417 new cataloging sources from around the world to LibraryThing.

It’s a lot to take in at once. We’ve added or greatly increased our support in a number of areas; here are some of the highlights:

  • Chinese: Academica Sinica, Feng Chia University, Lingnan Uniersity, National Cheng-chi University Libraries, Zhejiang Provincial Library
  • Russian: Moskow Library Network, Russian State Library
  • Czech: NK Praha, VK Olomouc, Moravian Library in Brno, Mìstská knihovna Prostìjov
  • Thai: Srinakharinwirot University
  • Arabic: United Arab Emirates University, American University of Cairo, International Islamic University Malaysia
  • Portuguese: Sistema Integrado de Bibliotecas da Universidade de Lisboa, Biblioteca Municipal Manuel Teixeira Gomes, Biblioteca Municipal de Ponte de Lima
  • Lithuanian: National Library of Lithuania, Lithuanian Union Catalogue
  • Polish: National Library of Poland
  • Estonian: Estonian Union Catalog, Tartu University Library
  • German: Südwestdeutscer Bibliotheksverbund, Juristisches Seminar der Universität Tübingen, Universität Basel
  • Seminaries: Asbury College and Theological Seminary, Wheeling Jesuit University, Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Military libraries: United States Military Academy, United States Navel Academy
  • Colleges: Middlebury, Wellesley, Dartmouth, Carleton, Bard
  • Museums/Special collections: Smithsonian Institution Research Information System, Folger Shakespeare Library, Museum of Modern Art
  • Consortia/Union Catalogs: New England Library Consortium, SELCO, Merrimack Valley Library Consortium, LIBROS Consortium, MARMOT Consortium
  • Universities: McGill, Princeton, Georgetown, Duke, Rutgers, Ohio State, Colorado
  • Large public libraries: New York, San Francisco, Denver, D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis
  • State Libraries: New York State Library, State Library of Florida, State Library of Pennsylvania, Texas State Library

That’s a pretty good mix, but the vast majority we added were US or Canadian libraries, even though we already had plenty of both. We’re still pretty weak in some areas, and completely missing in others. We use a protocol called Z39.50 to get book data from libraries. Quite simply, these are all the Z39.50 servers we could find info for and could get working with our software. We’d love to have thousands more, from all corners of the globe. Any library that has a Z39.50 server that would like to be on LibraryThing just needs to send me their connection info and I will add them.

All of these have been tested fairly thoroughly, but I’m sure there will be problems with some of them. Z39.50 is fickle and complex, and the servers are often unreliable. So some problems may be caused by misconfiguration on our part, and some may be due to circumstances and servers we can’t control. Let us know when there are problems, and we’ll do what we can.

Labels: milestones, new libraries, z39.50

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Series authors and work info in your catalog

I’ve added two small-ish features that point the way to other features:

Series Authors: Series pages now show all series authors, with photos if there are any. (The example below is from Star Wars.) Mouse-over a picture to get the name. In general, I want to move in the direction of graphical representations like this. I dislike profile pictures, but this is something different. It’s attractive, I think, and encourages people to add author photos.

Work info in you catalog: You can add the field “Work: Title and author” to your catalog display. In the example below you can see I have two copies of the work, the Histories and that my Penguin edition three Aeschyls play is otherwise known as the Oresteia. Incidentally, it cannot current sort by work title. If you sort by the “shared” column, however, it sorts by shared-copies which basically “groups” by work anyway.

Labels: new feature, new features, series, work pages

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Escaped Rhinos!

I just mis-posted here about our minimalist booth at the Public Library Association National Conference in Minneapolis. And, of course, as soon as I post it goes out to Google and all the RSS aggregators. So, my apologies for cluttering up your reader with rhinos.

I’ve posted it over on our ideas-and-libraries blog, Thingology instead.

Labels: librarything for libraries, PLA2008

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Series improvements

Chris and I have added two small but important features to LibraryThing’s amazing member-driven “series” feature (first blogged here).

First, authors now show series as well as works:

Second, I’ve added a page laying out all the series and series-books in your library. You can find it from your Profile tab under “statistics.” Here’s one from a user with many series, oakesspalding.

Oh, I forgot. FriendFeed, a fast-rising social-network aggregator I haven’t played with, added LibraryThing support a couple days ago.

Labels: new feature, new features, series

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

New JSON API

I’ve just blogged about a new Javascript/JSON API for work info over on Thingology, LibraryThing’s blog for ideas, issues, libraries and labs.

It’s mostly designed to make it easy for people to link to LibraryThing only when we have the book. You can also dress up the link with copy- and review-counts, and an average rating.

I think regular members will be more excited by a JSON API to your own books. This will allow us and members to write new widgets—widget for reviews, for example—and better widgets. I’m want to write them so that all the JavaScript code that comes out it is automatically shared between members, both legally and technically.

The work-info API is a first step. Let’s talk about this and what should come.

Labels: apis, json, widgets

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Twenty-five million books!

Back when we had five million books

We just hit 25,000,000 books.

It’s been a good week. LibraryThing and social cataloging were profiled on All Thing Considered and spent more than a day at the top of NPR’s most-emailed list. I was named a “Mover and Shaker” of the library world, a rare thing for a non-librarian. LibraryThing Local, only a few weeks old, hit 20,000 venues (now 23,000). Our Redesign LibraryThing project has been going well too. We unveiled a Bonus batch of free Early Reviewer books. And we opened up the LibraryThing Authors program. We’ve been unusually busy–my statistics (a new feature)—show I’ve already written more words on Talk than any other month, but also happy. And did I mention Casey got to talk about LibraryThing in Taiwan? Good times!

Suggestion contest: We’ve been casting around for an appropriate contest to commemorate the event. We’re going to give the book-pile contests a rest for a while; I’m not sure past winners can be topped. And although the LibraryThing haikus are one of my favorite parts of the site, many members find writing and poetry contests intimidating.

Instead, we’re going to make the contest about LibraryThing itself. I’ve opened up a Talk post: Ten ways to make LibraryThing better.

The rules are:

  • Post only once.
  • Provide no more than ten suggestions.
  • Keep the suggestions short–a few sentences at the most!
  • Focus on your suggestions, not on others’.

The suggestions can be of any kind. Technical requests–feature requests and bug fixes–are fine. But so are tips for how to promote LibraryThing or partnership ideas. You can mix them up–tell us to change the whole design around and go open source, and correct one small spelling error.

This is NOT a vote! You are free to post whatever suggestions you want, but we aren’t going to be tallying up how many times an idea is repeated. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to surface many ideas.

I’m asking that the main thread be kept clear of commentary; I’ve made a second thread for that.

At the end of our “Week of Twenty-Five Million Books” I’ll announce 25 winners. Fifteen will be randomly selected from members who posted. Ten will be selected for one or more of their suggestions. We’ll post our favorite suggestions on the blog, and get to work on at least some of them. Winners get a gift account, and their choice of:

The lucky member: The twenty-five millionth book was The Listerdale mystery, and other stories by Agatha Christie, added by LibraryThing member irkthepurist (Chris Browning). It was added at 2:47pm on Sunday. For his luck, irkthepurist gets a free membership, a CueCat barcode scanner and a t-shirt.

Look out LC! The next big milestone is going to be thirty and then thirty-two million books (specifically 32,124,001). The latter is the size of the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world. That’ll going to be something, isn’t it?

Update: I forgot Rosina Lippi’s banners!


*In case there’s a rush, we’ll allow no more than ten members to claim first dibs on an individual book. The individual must otherwise qualify. Unfortunately, we do not set the country restrictions, which are about who has publishing rights where.

Labels: contests, milestones, new feature, new features

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Redesign update

A week ago, I invited LibraryThing members to redesign the site, opening up LibraryThing Zen Garden, a place to design and test new stylesheets for the site.

So far, some two dozen members have contributed CSS stylesheets and one, zanix, produced a highly original design, executed entirely in Photoshop. MarkBarnes, acting on a suggestion from Abby, produced a very attractive design, based on the design of Cork’d, “LibraryThing for wine.” All told, there have been some really interesting ideas, and fetching new color palates. I’m still not sure where to take the design, but it’s given me a lot to think about. (It’s certainly poointed out some structural problems with our mark-up too.)

Check out the designs here and the group Redesign LibraryThing! where they are being discussed. Here are some samples:

Labels: redesign