Archive for the ‘new features’ Category

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Show off your reviews in Facebook

Our new LTFL Reviews Facebook Pagetab feature lets you display recent reviews that have been written in your catalog right in Facebook—where your patrons are. This is a free update to any library that subscribes to our Reviews Enhancement. Make the most out of the reviews your patrons are writing and proudly show them off!

You can set it to show all recent reviews, or filter by category—show just the “staff picks” or “back to school” category you might have set up.

LibraryThing for Libraries Reviews Enhancement is a great addition to your library catalog—letting patrons rate and review right within your OPAC. You can also share reviews with hundreds of other libraries that use the service, as well as draw from over a million hand-vetted user reviews written by LibraryThing.com members.

The Reviews Facebook Pagetab feature dovetails nicely with the last feature we added: social media integration—allowing patrons to sign in with and post their reviews to Facebook and Twitter.

More: Reviews Blog Widget

a reviews blog widget

While we’re on the subject of showing off reviews, the Reviews Enhancement also comes with a reviews blog widget, which lets you display new reviews anywhere (not just on Facebook!). Try adding a widget to your library’s homepage or blog to highlight the activity in your catalog. See for example the homepage of the Cass District Library, the blog of City of Hayward Public Library, or how the City of Port Phillip Library shows off “recent reviews from our catalogue.” Like the Facebook Pagetab, this feature also comes free with a subscription to the Reviews Enhancement!

Instructions on creating reviews widgets are here.

How to get Reviews in Facebook

If your library currently subscribes to the Reviews Enhancement, it’s quite easy to bring reviews into Facebook. Instructions to get started are here.

If you don’t yet subscribe to Reviews, just let me know if you’d be interested in a free trial! (email abby@librarything.com).

Labels: book reviews, facebook, librarything for libraries, ltfl, LTFL Reviews, new features, reviews, social media, social networking

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

BookPsychic gets better

Since the release of BookPsychic, LibraryThing’s first-of-its-kind recommendation service for library patrons, we’ve received a lot of feedback, and implemented four major changes.

Authors you’ve read. Some reviewers found BookPsychic recommended too many books by authors they had already read. Others thanked us for a useful way to discover backlist titles by authors they loved. The issue is basic. While BookPsychic, like LibraryThing, tends to “recommend down”—from more popular to more obscure books by an author—it certainly does recommend books by authors you rate.

Instead of establishing a new rule, like “no recommendations for authors you rate,” we decided to treat this as a display issue. Same-author recommendations should be there, but they should be clearly separated somehow.

To implement this we came up with a recommendation section for “Recommendations by authors you have rated” (seen at right). So the high-volume Danielle Steel reader can stop dealing with so many books you already know about, but the teenager who recently finished The Lord of the Rings can discover The Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin.

We also push same-author books back somewhat in the genre browsing. You’ll see them, but fewer of them.

Search. BookPsychic was designed as a recommendation system integrated into your OPAC, not an OPAC itself. So the first version passed you back into the OPAC when you wanted to search. But some reviewers found this clunky, and wanted a quick way to search for books to rate.

So we added a search box. It’s simple to use and keeps you in BookPsychic. You can rate items right from the results.

Other authors. Together with the search box, we added a back-of-book button for “more by this author.” It’s a handy way to give Steel or Tolkien a dozen thumbs up.

Coverage. BookPsychic’s coverage continues to improve, with most libraries seeing 55-75% of their ISBNs falling into one or more of its preset genres. A higher percent can be recommended, and everything can be rated.

The system now also picks up non-ISBN items in your library collection, and we’ve added a new genre for “Art and Design.” We’re eager to develop more genres, as wanted.

Speed. It’s faster!

Labels: BookPsychic, new features, recommendations

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Publishers: How to take advantage of LibraryThing for Publishers

I’ve made a five-minute screencast explaining how publishers can join the newly-announced LibraryThing for Publishers.

Email tim@librarything.com with questions.

Labels: LibraryThing for Publishers, new feature, new features

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 LibraryThing.com 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

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

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

New API: What work?

I’ve added a small, but nifty new API that provides a sure-fire way of connecting any site’s book data to LibraryThing.

The “What work?” API takes an ISBN and/or the book title and author and returns the LibraryThing work number, with link URL in XML.

It’s a very forgiving algorithm—these all lead to my wife’s The Mermaids Singing.

In sum, if you can’t connect your data to LibraryThing now, you aren’t trying!

If there’s interest, I can add a JSON version.


*You need to provide either an ISBN (ISBN10 or 13; with dashes or not) or a title and author. Authors can be in last-first (preferred) or first-last (fine). You can omit the author and tack it onto the title, eg., “Huckleberry Finn / Twain, Mark.” It’s very forgiving about punctuation, capitalization and so forth. It doesn’t make wild guesses, but it makes sensible ones.

Labels: apis, new features

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Introducing Reviews for LibraryThing for Libraries!

We’ve just released a new feature for LibraryThing for Libraries: Reviews. We’ve been working on this for months, and are itching to show it to you. (If you’re at Internet Librarian in Monterey, come by the booth for a full demonstration.)

The idea is simple:

  • Your library patrons get to review anything in your library.
  • Libraries share reviews, so a critical mass can build.
  • Implementation is absurdly simple—one short piece of JavaScript added to the catalog template. Period.

The “extras” send it into orbit:

  • It comes with 200,000 high-quality, vetted reviews from LibraryThing.
  • Your patrons get blog widgets and a Facebook application to show off their reviews—and their love for their library. Don’t get why this is great? Keep reading.

Check it out. Three libraries are currently showing reviews, together with the other LibraryThing for Libraries enhancements–similar books, tags and other editions and translations. Click on the reviews wording (see above) to launch the reviews “lightbox.”

Reviews in your catalog. The reviews wording shows up on all detail pages–not just books. You can also elect to show reviews on “search” or “list” pages. (Neither Los Gatos or High Plains have done this.)

LibraryThing for Libraries is not an “external” service. Everything happens in the catalog, not on some external site. “Reviews” works the same way. Like the rest of LTFL, it loads after the rest of the page, so it doesn’t slow it down.

Lightbox magic. Other reviews solutions have either put showing and editing reviews in an external window–kludgy and likely to trigger pop-up alerts–or shoe-horned reviews into the catalog page, mucking it up and subjecting reviews to space and style constraints.

We decided to do something different, putting reviews in a “lightbox,” like our Tag browser. This combines the best of both solutions–in-place action and a rock-solid, stylish look. Reviews are in the catalog, but they aren’t imprisoned by it.

Two-hundred thousand LibraryThing reviews. We think LibraryThing for Libraries reviews, especially with our widgets and Facebook app., are going to push patron reviewing to a new level. But the fact remains that no library project has yet managed to get patrons reviewing on the scale of an Amazon or a LibraryThing. And nothing kills people’s incentive to review than a desert–like restaurants, emptiness begets emptiness and success success.

So we’re kicking in over 200,000 LibraryThing reviews–gently vetted by LibraryThing staff.

These 200,000 reviews put LibraryThing miles ahead of our only “reviews” competitor, Chilifresh. They doesn’t release totals, but their numbers are low. Here for example are Chilifresh vs. LibraryThing for Libraries numbers for the last eight Pulitzer winners:

Pulitzer Prize winners Chilifresh LibraryThing
2008 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 1 review 24 reviews
2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy 8 reviews 199 reviews
2006 March by Geraldine Brooks 1 review 50 reviews
2005 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 0 reviews 45 reviews
2004 The Known World by Edward P. Jones 1 review 40 reviews
2003 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 1 review 120 reviews
2002 Empire Falls by Richard Russo 1 review 32 reviews
2001 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon 1 review 69 reviews
2000 Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 0 review 27 reviews

When push comes to shove, you don’t need 199 reviews. But Putlizer winners are popular books. When a popular book has 199 reviews, less popular books will have five or ten. Conversely, if Gilead and Interpreter of Maladies can’t get a review, the rare stuff definitely won’t have it.

Want to blog that table? (I wish you would. It took me forever to make.) Here’s the HTML.

My reviews at Los Gatos Public Library

Blog widgets and Facebook application. I do a lot of talking about “User Generated Content” (a horrible, dehumanizing phrase). Again and again I hit one point that–I think–Library 2.0 too often misses: User Generated Content isn’t about “getting something”–it’s about giving something.

People don’t review books to help a library, or even their community. They do it to get something back–a record of what they read and an opportunity to express themselves–and express themselves to the people they know.

This means two things. First, unlike some other systems, we made sure every member had a page–and one with a permanent link, so they could send it to friends. And second, it meant that we make sure patrons could showcase their reviews outside of their library catalog, where they “live” on the web. Both options are available from review members’ “settings” page.

Check out LibraryThing for Libraries’ “Reviews at My Library” on Facebook in the screen-shot. (The application is here, but you need to have a Facebook membership to get to it.) Here’s the blog widget in action:

More soon. I’ve got to run to our booth at Internet Librarian, but I’ll blog more soon. LibraryThing members will want to know how the two systems connect.*

*Members can opt-out of their reviews being seen in libraries–just edit your profile, although, because of caching, changes are not immediate.

Labels: book reviews, internet librarians, librarything for libraries, new features