Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Public Library Asssociation / 3 million tags

Three million tags. After getting the smack-down for daring to suggest (even in fun) that LibraryThing, with two million books, was now the 182th-largest library in the United States, I hesitate to proclaim that LibraryThing has more tags than any library in the world!

PLA. I managed to sneak down to Boston to catch the end of the Public Library Association’s 2006 conference. (A tip of the hat to my “connection,” who saw that I didn’t pay the full rate for what amounted to 1 1/2 hours of attendance and a Diet Pepsi.) Although I stupidly left my beautiful bookmark business cards at home, I managed to mention LibraryThing to a bunch of people. Nine in ten had never heard of it, but one in ten’s eyes lit up and they got effusive—a great sign, I think. I gave a well-received product demo to a library OPAC supplier. And I picked up information on getting some real-live LibraryThing library cards, which would be fun, if totally useless, I think. Were any other Thingamabrarians there?

Super-librarian Nancy Pearl talked at the PLA, but on Wednesday, so she dodged an abject plea for a NPR story on LibraryThing. Fortunately, I have the life-like Librarian Action Figure (“With Amazing Push-Button Shushing Action!”*), modeled directly after Ms. Pearl.

Nancy, if you’re reading this, does the word voodoo have any meaning for you?

*My wife got me her action figure under the false impression that it actually made shushing noises, or at least moved its “Shushing Action” under battery power, but it just sits there and you have to do both the shushing and the motion. Hey, what gives?

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Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Slashdot and LibraryThing

Slashdot is running a topic Solving the home library problem? Happy users—and unhappy ones?—are invited to go on over and “represent.”

Current opinion is largely in favor of Delicious Library, that elegant but limited Mac desktop application. LibraryThing hasn’t come in for much mention, largely, I think, because Slashdot people are unaware of it. (If only Slashdot were written by librarians, who’s awareness of LibraryThing is approaching a saturation point, with each new mention starting “You’ve probably already heard about it from other people, but…”)

Delicious Library is, I agree, very beautiful and works very elegantly. But it’s totally desktop bound. Once you enter your books, they just sit there. Worse, it only uses Amazon. That’s great if all your books are in print, in an Amazon language, and you don’t care about cataloging data quality (or Deweys, etc.). Nor does it have tags…

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Sunday, March 19th, 2006

Most Requested Minor Feature, The

LibraryThing is now sorting books without initial the/an/a, so a book like Shelby Foote’s The Civil War goes under C rather than T. It took a while, but it’s done now!

I’ve made a stab at foreign-language support. At present it works with: English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Welsh, Albanian, Hungarian, Tagalog, Turkish and Malagasy. The most important missing language is Italian.

At present, it’s a totally dumb process, removing definite and indefinite articles without attention to the underlying language, which LibraryThing doesn’t current track. This leaves it open to interpreting Die Another Day as Another Day, Die (German die), and is why I’ve absented Italian from the list (the article I would produce such non-books as Was a Teenage Dominatrix, I). This problem will go away when I start tracking languages.

For cataloging geeks: (1) I used the list provided by the Library of Congress. (2) Although MARC records can indicate “the number of character positions associated with an initial definite or indefinite article to be disregarded in sorting and filing processes,” I have decided not to use this information. The system needs to adapt when someone changes a record, at which point the MARC record can no longer be a reliable guide. Also, many records don’t have MARC records. (3) Unless I’m mistaken, here’s an example where language is important, even when the definitive article has no potential ambiguity: Les Bons Mots : How to Amaze Tout Le Monde with Everyday French. Right?

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Saturday, March 18th, 2006

Widgets! Widgets! Widgets!

I’ve substantially upgraded LibraryThing’s widgets, the little things you stick on your blog or web page to tell people what your reading (and more). The major improvements are:

  • Tag and author cloud widgets! Show your tags or the authors in your collection, either by frequency or randomly. Control the type size, size “contrast,” number, style, etc.
  • Cover-only widgets, with fixed width and height options for better display
  • Preset widgets for ease of use, customized widgets for every need, and you can still muck around with customizing them yourself with CSS*
  • Control over showing title or title and author, where links go, etc.
  • AllConsuming-like widgets
  • CSS now includes LTodd and LTeven styles, so you can add striping if you want
  • Super Ajaxorific look and feel; you’ll see more of this around LibraryThing

I hope you have as much fun with them as I had making them. I’d love to hear what you think of them, and what you want. Improvments I’m working on:

  • Sorting by the data-read, date-bought fields
  • Connections widgets. Do you want them?

*Julie Meloni’s blog post Styling the LibraryThing blog widget remains the best discussion of how to hyper-customize widgets with CSS. The only real change is on odd/even striping; tags don’t add much.

UPDATE: Show us how you use your widget and if you’ve modified it in a cool way by posting the URL in the comments!

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Friday, March 17th, 2006

St. Patrick’s Day Tag Cloud for Liam

Update: I forgot! beer

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Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Two million books!

LibraryThing has topped two million books!

The 2,000,000th book, Elizabeth Moon‘s Winning Colors, was added at at 10:19 pm. Congratulations to Kiesa, who takes home a free gift account for her luck.

Press: Cover this!

I hoping that this milestone gets some press attention. LibraryThing is one heck of a cool story—28,000 users adding two million books, finding people with similar interests, getting recommendations, doing crazy new Wikipedia-like things with cataloging, etc. Something is really going on here.

I recently read a story on, one of the new pay-for-swapping services. According to the AP, Lala has has “250 members trading some 12,000 CDs”! (It also, apparently, has four founders, as well as employees.) You can imagine my consternation, heightened by a WSJ article on other swapping sites. Maybe I should start pretending LibraryThing is venture backed.

Incidentally, as soon as I can swing it technically, LibraryThing will be adding:

  • A FREE loan/swap service. Let’s talk about how to do this on the discussion group.
  • Cataloging of CDs, DVDs (at least). Don’t worry, books will remain the center.

Fun Size Facts

  • According to the American Library Directory, LibraryThing is now larger than the public libraries of Atlanta, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Antonio. It tops state universities like Colorado State, Illinois State, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Maryland, and private universities like Fordham and William and Mary.
  • According to the American Library Association, LibraryThing is 634,375 volumes away from being the 100th largest library in the United States.
  • The American Library Directory lists 181 libraries larger than LibraryThing.
  • The 2 millionth book makes LibraryThing far-and-away the largest of the 16(!) cataloging services that have sprung up since LibraryThing’s launch, the largest of which has 249,000 “items.”
  • If laid end-to-end LibraryThing’s collection would extend from Boston, MA to Pennsylvania, PA. (Maybe.)
  • LibraryThing is now larger than the Boston College Library (an even 2 mil. according to the American Library Directory). And Boston College was founded in 1863! Those people don’t read much, I guess. But as an alumnus of Georgetown—the original and better Jesuit university—I already knew that.
  • OCLC, the world’s largest library consortium, has 1 billion records in its database. But the OCLC adds only 8,640 books/day, whereas LibraryThing adds 10,152 books/day. This means that LibraryThing will come out ahead in 3815.
  • LibraryThing has more than twice as many books by J. K. Rowling as Thomas Jefferson gave to the Library of Congress after the British destroyed the first collection by fire. There’s a joke in here somewhere.

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Friday, March 10th, 2006

New lifetime member

Say hello to LibraryThing’s newest lifetime member, Liam Patrick Spalding, born 5:24am 3/9/06. Mother and baby are doing well.

Liam thanks everyone for your support. It bought him a swell nursery!

Liam is fortunate that both his parents work at home (web developer, writer). But give me a few days before any new features are added, eh? For now, Abby ( is handling user emails—she’ll also be checking my email account. Austin ( is handling server issues.

Labels: LibraryThing babies

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

New server, new libraries

New server. After months of work and a few days of back and forth, LibraryThing is now officially on the “new new” server (the merely “new” server proving to be fast but also buggy). With luck this will be the last server change until LibraryThing is acquired by Walmart. (Oh, and LibraryThing data is now backed-up daily to two separate servers, one in California and one in New York.)

New libraries. I’ve added a few more libraries:

  • Trinity College, Dublin — LibraryThing’s first Irish library
  • Union Catalogue of Finnish University Libraries (LINDA) — LibraryThing’s first Finnish library
  • Columbia (CLIO). Columbia, Barnard and the Union Theological Seminary — LibraryThing’s first seminary and a heft university library
  • Washington Research Library Consortium (D.C.) — Eight DC-area libraries, including Georgetown, American and Gallaudet (website)

Want more? I picked this stuff up rather quickly, but I gather quite a few LibraryThing users do library catalog Z39.50 programming for a living, Want to lend a hand? I’m having a deuce of a time getting certain libraries to work (e.g., The Folger Shakespeare, and Oxford, which works fine for one phrase, but not for multiple). If there were enough interest, I could implement user-controlled library addition.

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Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Introducing Abigail Blachly, Librarian


LibraryThing welcomes a new member to the team: Abigail Blachly. Abby, a real librarian with a day job, will be helping me out part-time over the next few weeks, and, I hope, beyond. She will be handling some customer emails, and generally helping raise the library-science quotient of LibraryThing.

Abby is a graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, with a dual MA/MS in Archives and History. She’s worked in several college and university archives, and currently works as a corporate archivist/cataloger. A couple years ago I worked with her at Houghton Mifflin, a publisher in Boston. She’s sharp!


I am in fact, a real librarian by day (though the title to this post seems more like it should be announcing “Abigail Blachly, International Spy” than a librarian), and I’m excited to be helping Tim. LibraryThing is on the cutting edge of cataloging, with its concepts of works, tagging, user-controlled cataloging… And who knew so many people would care about figuring out MARC fields? It’s incredible, and I can’t wait to get into it all.

Anyway, here I am, ready and willing to talk LibraryThing meets library science. I’ve never worked as a professional cataloger or technical services librarian, though, so go easy on me. But I am still a librarian, after all, so if I don’t know an answer, I’ll find it.

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Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

What is this thing?

I feel like I’ve made it to college without knowing the capital of France. I admit it! I use computers. I run a website. I blog. But I have no idea what these blog-thingies are called. (I did know enough to get one.) Anyone?

Great. Brilliant buttons, or badges. Someone commented with a site that makes them for you. Hey, I did it the hard way!

Over there, I came up with a better one:

And in honor of the “Thingamabrarians,” coined by rjohara and given a logo by saralaughs, I offer:

That was hard. The site doesn’t have a condensed font. Now, will someone explain to me, are Thingamabrarians all users, users of the Google group, or users who are also librarians?

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