Archive for July, 2009

Monday, July 20th, 2009

LTFL: Non-ISBN Matching

Short Story. We’ve been going through so many big changes at LibraryThing lately that we let a pretty substantial improvement go by without giving it the fanfare it deserves: the LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) Cataloging Enhancements now pick up many non-ISBN items. All LibraryThing for Libraries libraries will see better coverage (5-15%), and academic libraries with older materials should be especially pleased:

Some examples:

The coolest thing about the LibraryThing office: Need a photo of an old book? Grab iphone, swivel chair 180 degrees and shoot. Second coolest thing: The only hot Web 2.0 company with a 1774 edition of Terence.

Long Story. Our enhancements usually run on the basis of the ISBN. ISBNs are easy to pick out of the HTML without knowing the structure of the page ( /[0-9Xx]{10,13}/*, if you speak regular expressions*), and most books have them, so they’re our primary way of knowing what content to load for a particular page.

However, as a part of our reviews enhancement, we developed a JavaScript library called the LibraryThing Connector that, among other things, screen-scrapes the title and author of the book out of the HTML. This is what allows our reviews to work on any item a library owns, whether or not it is in LibraryThing or has an ISBN. It’s tricky stuff, because it requires specific code for every type of library software that we provide reviews for.

To get title-matching therefore, we take the title and author extracted by the Connector and feed it to our own “What Work” fuzzy matching API. Of course, this method is far from foolproof, so we err on the side of caution, only loading enhancement data if we’ve got a strong match on both the title and the author. We haven’t seen any false positives yet, but even with being pretty strict about matching, based on real world stats, we’re able to provide around 5-15% more content in the catalog. Academic libraries will get more of a boost out of this, because they tend to have a lot more non-ISBN items than public libraries.

We did this because it’s fun and useful and kind of magic, but more importantly because we want to constantly improve our products. LibraryThing for Libraries is a subscription service. Every year when it is time for a library to renew with us, we want it to be clear that they’re getting something better from us than they were a year ago, and that even better things are in store for the future. It’s more fun and challenging for us that way, but it’s also something we know works pretty well as a business strategy too.

In my mind a big reason why has succeeded is that a membership comes with an expectation of improvement. We don’t call a membership an investment, but you get to expect that you will be able to do more and better and cooler things with LibraryThing over time, and that it will become more valuable to you. As a result of this, our members become deeply involved in the site and how it works, and if a LibraryThing membership is a great investment, members end up making an even greater investment of their knowledge and enthusiasm right back. It’s a great thing to be a part of, so I hope it’s a philosophy we can keep bringing to the library world as well. — Casey

*Pace Casey, who wrote this post, ISBNs are/([0-9]{9}[0-9X}|97[89][0-9]{10})/i !

Labels: librarything for libraries, ltfl, new features

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Upcoming book: Library Mashups

If you’re interested in Library 2.0 and library technology generally, you might want to pre-order Library mashups : exploring new ways to deliver library data (website), a collection of articles on innovative ways to use (and abuse) library data.

I haven’t read it yet, except for the chapter I wrote, “Breaking into the OPAC.” I’m looking forward to many, including one on John Blyberg/Darien Library’s SOPAC and something on “Zack Bookmaps,” an effort to show local library copies of a book, without using OCLC. There’s also a chapter on the LibraryThing API and libraries, written by Robin Hastings. Nicole Engard (a LibraryThing author), shepherded the whole thing to completion.

I found the book-process frustrating at times. At their fastest—and multi-author collaborations aren’t that—books are slow things. This one took about a year. But the articles still look timely to me, and it’s going to be good to hold “my” book in my hands.

Labels: books

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

LibraryThing for Libraries at ALA: new features and hungry rhinos

Are you ready for this?

Tim and I will be at the American Library Association’s annual conference this year. We have new, new LTFL features to show off. You can find us at booth 2857 in the exhibit hall.

1. New features! We’ll be demoing our new catalog enhancers – never before seen by librarians. We’ll post an announcement all about the new features in a day or two.

2. An art installation! Yeah, you’ll just have to wait and see it. I can’t even describe it, other than to say that it takes away ennui.

3. More rhinos! Tim and I are both flying to Chicago with an inflatable rhino in our luggage. We plan on playing “Toss the Rhino”, and perhaps if we are feeling extra daring, “Pass the Rhinos“.

(Thanks to Brixton for the masticating rhino photo. The rhino tossing one’s mine. That’s Tim and Casey putting some English on the rhino.)

Labels: librarything for libraries, ltfl, new feature, new features, rhinos, Tim

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Categories for your LTFL Reviews

Teen reviews from Seattle Public Library

We’ve a new feature to LibraryThing for Libraries, suggested by Lare over at the Seattle Public Library. He was looking for a way to show off just some of their reviews—reviews for their summer reading program.

Libraries can now add “categories” for their reviewers to check off—library book club books, Big Read books, reviews by library staff, etc. And the library can show off just one category of reviews in their LTFL blog widget.

Seattle has made blog-widget pages for their kids section, teen section, and even their adult section of the site. By categorizing the reviews into age-related groups, they can feature items in their catalog that would interest the patrons for each demographic.

We’ll be releasing some more cool features at American Library Association meeting in Chicago next week.

Labels: ltfl, LTFL categories, ltfl libraries, LTFL Reviews, Seattle Public Library