Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Introducing Syndetics Unbound

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Short Version

Today we’re going public with a new product for libraries, jointly developed by LibraryThing and ProQuest. It’s called Syndetics Unbound, and it makes library catalogs better, with catalog enrichments that provide information about each item, and jumping-off points for exploring the catalog.

To see it in action, check out the Hartford Public Library in Hartford, CT. Here are some sample links:

We’ve also got a press release and a nifty marketing site.

Long Version

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The Basic Idea

Syndetics Unbound aims to make patrons happier and increase circulation. It works by enhancing discovery within your OPAC, giving patrons useful information about books, movies, music, and video games, and helping them find other things they like. This means adding elements like cover images, summaries, recommendations, series, tags, and both professional and user reviews.

In one sense, Syndetics Unbound combines products—the ProQuest product Syndetics Plus and the LibraryThing products LibraryThing for Libraries and Book Display Widgets. In a more important sense, however, it leaps forward from these products to something new, simple, and powerful. New elements were invented. Static elements have become newly dynamic. Buttons provide deep-dives into your library’s collection. And—we think—everything looks better than anything Syndetics or LibraryThing have done before! (That’s one of only two exclamation points in this blog post, so we mean it.)

Simplicity

Syndetics Unbound is a complete and unified solution, not a menu of options spread across one or even multiple vendors.

This simplicity starts with the design, which is made to look good out of the box, already configured for your OPAC and look.

The installation requirements for Syndetics Unbound are minimal. If you already have Syndetics Plus or LibraryThing for Libraries, you’re all set. If you’ve never been a customer, you only need to add a line of HTML to your OPAC, and to upload your holdings.

Although it’s simple, we didn’t neglect options. Libraries can reorder elements, or drop them entirely. We expect libraries will pick and choose, and evaluate elements according to patron needs, or feedback from our detailed usage stats. Libraries can also tweak the look and feel with custom CSS stylesheets.

And simplicity is cheap. To assemble a not-quite-equivalent bundle from ProQuest’s and LibraryThing’s separate offerings would cost far more. We want everyone who has Syndetics Unbound to have it in its full glory.

Comprehensiveness and Enrichments

Syndetics Unbound enriches your catalog with some sixteen enrichments, but the number is less important than the options they encompass. These include both professional and user-generated content, information about the item you’re looking at, and jumping-off points to explore similar items.

Quick descriptions of the enrichments:

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Boilterplate covers for items without covers.

Premium Cover Service. Syndetics offers the most comprehensive cover database in existence for libraries—over 25 million full-color cover images for books, videos, DVDs, and CDs, with thousands of new covers added every week.

For Syndetics Unbound, we added boilerplate covers for items that don’t have a cover, which include the title, author, and media type.

Summaries. Over 18 million essential summaries and annotations, so patrons know what the book’s about.

About the Author. This section includes the author biography and a small shelf of other items by the author. The section is also adorned by a small author photo—a first in the catalog, although familiar elsewhere on the web.

Look Inside. Includes three previous Syndetics enrichments—first chapters or excerpts, table of contents and large-size covers—newly presented as a “peek inside the book” feature.

Series. Shows a book’s series, including reading order. If the library is missing part of the series, those covers are shown but grayed out.

You May Also Like. Provides sharp, on-the-spot readers advisory in your catalog, with the option to browse a larger world of suggestions, drawn from LibraryThing members and big-data algorithms. In this and other enrichments, Syndetics Unbound only recommends items that your library owns.

The Syndetics Unbound recommendations cover far more of your collection than any similar service. For example, statistics from the Hartford Public Library show this feature on 88% of items viewed.

Professional Reviews includes more than 5.4 million reviews from Library Journal, School Library Journal, New York Times, The Guardian, The Horn Book, BookList, BookSeller + Publisher Magazine, Choice, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus. A la carte review sources include Voice of Youth Advocates: VOYA, Doody’s Medical Reviews and Quill and Quire.

Reader Reviews includes more than 1.5 million vetted, reader reviews from LibraryThing members. It also allows patrons and librarians to add their own ratings and reviews, right in your catalog, and then showcase them on a library’s home page and social media.

Also Available As helps patrons find other available formats and versions of a title in your collection, including paper, audio, ebook, and translations.

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Exploring the tag system

Tags rethinks LibraryThing’s celebrated tag clouds—redesigning them toward simplicity and consistency, and away from the “ransom note” look of most clouds. As data, tags are based on over 131 million tags created by LibraryThing members, and hand-vetted by our staff librarians for quality. A new exploration interface allows patrons to explore what LibraryThing calls “tag mashes”—finding books by combinations of tags—in a simple faceted way.

I’m going to be blogging about the redesign of tag clouds in the near future. Considering dozens of designs, we decided on a clean break with the past. (I expect it will get some reactions.)

Book Profile is a newly dynamic version of what Bowker has done for years—analyzing thousands of new works of fiction, short-story collections, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs annually. Now every term is clickable, and patrons can search and browse over one million profiles.

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Explore Reading Levels

Reading Level is a newly dynamic way to see and explore other books in the same age and grade range. Reading Level also includes Metametrics Lexile® Framework for Reading. Click the “more” button to get a new, super-powered reading-level explorer. This is one my favorite features! (Second and last exclamation point.)

Awards highlights the awards a title has won, and helps patrons find highly-awarded books in your collection. Includes biggies like the National Book Award and the Booker Prize, but also smaller awards like the Bram Stoker Award and Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Book Award.

Browse Shelf gives your patrons the context and serendipity of browsing a physical shelf, using your call numbers. Includes a mini shelf-browser that sits on your detail pages, and a full-screen version, launched from the detail page.

Video and Music adds summaries and other information for more than four million video and music titles including annotations, performers, track listings, release dates, genres, keywords, and themes.

Video Games provides game descriptions, ESRB ratings, star ratings, system requirements, and even screenshots.

Book Display Widgets. Finally, Syndetics Unbound isn’t limited to the catalog, but includes the LibraryThing product Book Display Widgets—virtual book displays that go on your library’s homepage, blog, LibGuides, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or even in email newsletters. Display Widgets can be filled with preset content, such as popular titles, new titles, DVDs, journals, series, awards, tags, and more. Or you point them at a web page, RSS feed, or list of ISBNs, UPCs, or ISSNs. If your data is dynamic, the widget updates automatically.

Here’s a page of Book Display Widget examples.

Find out More

Made it this far? You really need to see Syndetics Unbound in action.

Check it Out. Again, here are some sample links of Syndetics Unbound at Hartford Public Library in Hartford, CT: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Faithful Place by Tana French.

Webinars. We hold webinars every Tuesday and walk you through the different elements and answer questions. To sign up for a webinar, visit this Webex page and search for “Syndetics Unbound.”

Interested in Syndetics Unbound at your library? Go here to contact a representative at ProQuest. Or read more about at the Syndetics Unbound website. Or email us at ltflsupport@librarything.com and we’ll help you find the right person or resource.

Labels: librarything for libraries, new feature, new features, new product

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

ALAMW 2016 in Boston (and Free Passes)!

Abby and KJ will be at ALA Midwinter in Boston this weekend, showing off LibraryThing for Libraries. Since the conference is so close to LibraryThing headquarters, chances are good that a few other LT staff members may appear, as well!

Visit Us. Stop by booth #1717 to meet Abby & KJ (and potential mystery guests!), get a demo, and learn about all the new and fun things we’re up to with LibraryThing for Libraries, TinyCat, and LibraryThing.

Get in Free. Are you in the Boston area and want to go to ALAMW? We have free exhibit only passes. Click here to sign up and get one! Note: It will get you just into the exhibit hall, not the conference sessions themselves.

Labels: Uncategorized

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

For ALA 2015: Three Free OPAC Enhancements

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For a limited time, LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) is offering three of its signature enhancements for free!

There are no strings attached. We want people to see how LibraryThing for Libraries can improve your catalog.

  1. Check Library.

    The Check Library button is a “bookmarklet” that allows patrons to check if your library has a book while on Amazon and most other book websites. Unlike other options, LibraryThing knows all of the editions out there, so it finds the edition your library has. Learn more about Check Library

  2. Other Editions

    Let your users know everything you have. Don’t let users leave empty-handed when the record that came up is checked out. Other editions links all your holdings together in a FRBR model—paper, audiobook, ebook, even translations.

  3. Lexile Measures

    Put MetaMetrics’ The Lexile Framework® for Reading in your catalog, to help librarians and patrons find material based on reading level. In addition to showing the Lexile numbers, we also include an interactive browser.

Easy to Add

LTFL Enhancements are easy to install and can be added to every major ILS/OPAC system and most of the minor ones. Enrichments can be customized and styled to fit your catalog, and detailed usage reporting lets you know how they’re doing.

See us at ALA. Stop by booth 3634 at ALA Annual this weekend in San Francisco to talk to Tim and Abby and see how these enhancements work.

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

Sign up

We’re offering these three enhancements free, for at least two years. We’ll probably send you links showing you how awesome other enhancements would look in your catalog, but that’s it.

Find out more http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries or email Abby Blachly at abby@librarything.com.

Labels: alaac15, Lexile measures, librarything for libraries, ltfl

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

ALA 2015 in San Francisco (Free Passes)

Kate at ALAMW15
Our booth. But this is Kate, not Tim or Abby. She had the baby.

Tim and I are headed to San Francisco this weekend for the ALA Annual Conference.

Visit Us. Stop by booth #3634 to talk to us, get a demo, and learn about all the new and fun things we’re up to with LibraryThing for Libraries!

Stay tuned this week for more announcements of what we’ll be showing off. No, really. It’s going to be awesome.

Get in Free. In the SF area and want to go to ALA? We have free exhibit only passes. Click here to sign up and get one. It will get you just into the exhibit hall, not the conference sessions themselves.

Labels: ala, alaac15

Monday, February 9th, 2015

New “More Like This” for LibraryThing for Libraries

We’ve just released “More Like This,” a major upgrade to LibraryThing for Libraries’ “Similar items” recommendations. The upgrade is free and automatic for all current subscribers to LibraryThing for Libraries Catalog Enhancement Package. It adds several new categories of recommendations, as well as new features.

We’ve got text about it below, but here’s a short (1:28) video:

What’s New

Similar items now has a See more link, which opens More Like This. Browse through different types of recommendations, including:

  • Similar items
  • More by author
  • Similar authors
  • By readers
  • Same series
  • By tags
  • By genre

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You can also choose to show one or several of the new categories directly on the catalog page.

Click a book in the lightbox to learn more about it—a summary when available, and a link to go directly to that item in the catalog.

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Rate the usefulness of each recommended item right in your catalog—hovering over a cover gives you buttons that let you mark whether it’s a good or bad recommendation.

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Try it Out!

Click “See more” to open the More Like This browser in one of these libraries:

Find out more

Find more details for current customers on what’s changing and what customizations are available on our help pages.

For more information on LibraryThing for Libraries or if you’re interested in a free trial, email abby@librarything.com, visit http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries, or register for a webinar.

Labels: librarything for libraries, ltfl, recommendations, similar books

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Subjects and the Ship of Theseus

I thought I might take a break to post an amusing photo of something I wrote out today:

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The photo is a first draft of a database schema for a revamp of how LibraryThing will do library subjects. All told, it has 26 tables. Gulp.

About eight of the tables do what a good cataloging system would do:

  • Distinguishes the various subject systems (LCSH, Medical Subjects, etc.)
  • Preserves the semantic richness of subject cataloging, including the stuff that never makes it into library systems.
  • Breaks subjects into their facets (e.g., “Man-woman relationships — Fiction”) has two subject facets

Most of the tables, however, satisfy LibraryThing’s unusual core commitments: to let users do their own thing, like their own little library, but also to let them benefit from and participate in the data and contributions of others.(1) So it:

  • Links to subjects from various “levels,” including book-level, edition-level, ISBN-level and work-level.
  • Allows members to use their own data, or “inherit” subjects from other levels.
  • Allows for members to “play librarian,” improving good data and suppressing bad data.(2)
  • Allows for real-time, fully reversible aliasing of subjects and subject facets.

The last is perhaps the hardest. Nine years ago (!) I compared LibraryThing to the “Ship of Theseus,” a ship which is “preserved” although its components are continually changed. The same goes for much of its data, although “shifting sands” might be a better analogy. Accounting for this makes for some interesting database structures, and interesting programming. Not every system at LibraryThing does this perfectly. But I hope this structure will help us do that better for subjects.(3)

Weird as all this is, I think it’s the way things are going. At present most libraries maintain their own data, which, while generally copied from another library, is fundamentally siloed. Like an evolving species, library records descend from each other; they aren’t dynamically linked. The data inside the records are siloed as well, trapped in a non-relational model. The profession that invented metadata, and indeed invented sharing metadata, is, at least as far as its catalogs go, far behind.

Eventually that will end. It may end in a “Library Goodreads,” every library sharing the same data, with global changes possible, but reserved for special catalogers. But my bet is on a more LibraryThing-like future, where library systems will both respect local cataloging choices and, if they like, benefit instantly from improvements made elsewhere in the system.

When that future arrives, we got the schema!


1. I’m betting another ten tables are added before the system is complete.
2. The system doesn’t presume whether changes will be made unilaterally, or voted on. Voting, like much else, existings in a separate system, even if it ends up looking like part of the subject system.
3. This is a long-term project. Our first steps are much more modest–the tables have an order-of-use, not shown. First off we’re going to duplicate the current system, but with appropriate character sets and segmentation by thesaurus and language.

Labels: cataloging, subjects

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

LibraryThing Recommends in BiblioCommons

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Does your library use BiblioCommons as its catalog? LibraryThing and BiblioCommons now work together to give you high-quality reading recommendations in your BiblioCommons catalog.

You can see some examples here. Look for “LibraryThing Recommends” on the right side.

Quick facts:

  • As with all LibraryThing for Libraries products, LibraryThing Recommends only recommends other books within a library’s catalog.
  • LibraryThing Recommends stretches across media, providing recommendations not just for print titles, but also for ebooks, audiobooks, and other media.
  • LibraryThing Recommends shows up to two titles up front, with up to three displayed under “Show more.”
  • Recommendations come from LibraryThing’s recommendations system, which draws on hundreds of millions of data points in readership patterns, tags, series, popularity, and other data.

Not using BiblioCommons? Well, you can get LibraryThing recommendations—and much more—integrated in almost every catalog (OPAC and ILS) on earth, with all the same basic functionality, like recommending only books in your catalog, as well as other LibraryThing for Libraries feaures, like reviews, series and tags.

Check out some examples on different systems here.

Interested?

BiblioCommons: email info@bibliocommons.com or visit http://www.bibliocommons.com/AugmentedContent. See the full specifics here.
Other Systems: email abby@librarything.com or visit http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries.

Labels: Uncategorized

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

NEW: Annotations for Book Display Widgets

Our Book Display Widgets is getting adopted by more and more libraries, and we’re busy making it better and better. Last week we introduced Easy Share. This week we’re rolling out another improvement—Annotations!

Book Display Widgets is the ultimate tool for libraries to create automatic or hand-picked virtual book displays for their home page, blog, Facebook or elsewhere. Annotations allows libraries to add explanations for their picks.

Station Eleven

Some Ways to Use Annotations

1. Explain Staff Picks right on your homepage.
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2. Let students know if a book is reserved for a particular class.
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3. Add context for special collections displays.
Blueberries for Sal

How it Works

Check out the LibraryThing for Libraries Wiki for instructions on how to add Annotations to your Book Display Widgets. It’s pretty easy.

Interested?

Watch a quick screencast explaining Book Display Widgets and how you can use them.

Find out more about LibraryThing for Libraries and Book Display Widgets. And sign up for a free trial of either by contacting ltflsupport@librarything.com.

Labels: Book Display Widgets, librarything for libraries, new feature, new features, widgets

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Send us a programmer, win $1,000 in books.

We just posted a new job post Job: Library Developer at LibraryThing (Telecommute).

To sweeten the deal, we are offering $1,000 worth of books to the person who finds them. That’s a lot of books.

Rules! You get a $1,000 gift certificate to the local, chain or online bookseller of your choice.

To qualify, you need to connect us to someone. Either you introduce them to us—and they follow up by applying themselves—or they mention your name in their email (“So-and-so told me about this”). You can recommend yourself, but if you found out about it from someone else, we hope you’ll do the right thing and make them the beneficiary.

Small print: Our decision is final, incontestable, irreversible and completely dictatorial. It only applies when an employee is hired full-time, not part-time, contract or for a trial period. If we don’t hire someone for the job, we don’t pay. The contact must happen in the next month. If we’ve already been in touch with the candidate, it doesn’t count. Void where prohibited. You pay taxes, and the insidious hidden tax of shelving. Employees and their families are eligible to win, provided they aren’t work contacts. Tim is not.

» Job: Library Developer at LibraryThing (Telecommute)

Labels: jobs

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Job: Library Developer at LibraryThing (Telecommute)

Code! Code! Code!

LibraryThing, the company behind LibraryThing.com and LibraryThing for Libraries, is looking to hire a top-notch developer/programmer.

We like to think we make “products that don’t suck,” as opposed to much of what’s developed for libraries. We’ve got new ideas and not enough developers to make them. That’s where you come in.

The Best Person

  • Work for us in Maine, or telecommute in your pajamas. We want the best person available.
  • If you’re junior, this is a “junior” position. If you’re senior, a “senior” one. Salary is based on your skills and experience.

Technical Skills

  • LibraryThing is mostly non-OO PHP. You need to be a solid PHP programmer or show us you can become one quickly.
  • You should be experienced in HTML, JavaScript, CSS and SQL.
  • We welcome experience with design and UX, Python, Solr, and mobile development.
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The highly-photogenic LibraryThing staff only use stock photos ironically.

What We Value

  • Execution is paramount. You must be a sure-footed and rapid coder, capable of taking on jobs and finishing them with attention and expedition.
  • Creativity, diligence, optimism, and outspokenness are important.
  • Experience with library data and systems is favored.
  • LibraryThing is an informal, high-pressure and high-energy environment. This puts a premium on speed and reliability, communication and responsibility.
  • Working remotely gives you freedom, but also requires discipline and internal motivation.

Compensation

  • Gold-plated health insurance.
  • Cheese.

How To Apply

  • We have a simple quiz, developed back in 2011. If you can do it in under five minutes, you should apply for the job! If not, well, wasn’t that fun anyway?
  • To apply, send a resume. Skip the cover letter, and go through the blog post in your email, responding to the tangibles and intangibles bullet-by-bullet.
  • Also include your solution to the quiz, and how long it took you. Anything under five minutes is fine. If it takes you longer than five minutes, we won’t know. But the interview will involve lots of live coding.
  • Feel free to send questions to tim@librarything.com, or Skype chat Tim at LibraryThingTim.
  • Please put “Library developer” somewhere in your email subject line.

Labels: jobs