Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Sears–Taxonomy–Not Safe for Work

Screenshots from, showing unauthorized headings. The first one could be placeholder text, but the second one suggests to me someone is being let go and is taking out on the subject headings…

Click to see a larger image, and check out the breadcrumb trail.

Update: It was apparently done by changing the URL, which includes the category. A good tech lesson their. But I couldn’t get it to work. Maybe it still works for the second one because it’s cached.

Labels: humor

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Glowy magic, wolves and damsels in distress

Sci-fi/fantasy publisher Orbit has compiled a chart of 2008 Fantasy Cover Elements, charting the prevalence of unicorns and swords, elves and “glowy magic” (a big winner).

I’m disappointed in the minimalist “damsels in distress.” As a boy with a good collection of Conan novels, I feel that fantasy covers are all about occasions to show impossibly good-looking women in clothing of dubious practicality. I’m betting, if tallied, chainmail brassieres might well beat out glowy magic.

Labels: humor

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

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Project Managers Sought for OSC

Due to an increase in work commitments for both Laena and David, new
project managers are sought for the Open Shelves Classification project. Below is a status report of the project. Interested leaders should contact Tim Spalding (

OSC status report June 2009:

One year into the project, here is what we have accomplished so far:
-Many wide-ranging discussions were held in the LibraryThing Build
the Open Shelves Classification group and the OSC blog.

-Optional facets were agreed upon initially as the way to handle audience, format, and language.

-An initial list of top level categories was compiled by the end of 2008 and put out for review.

-In January 2009, LibraryThing members tested these categories by applying them to works in LibraryThing using the ClassifyThis feature.

-In January, a brainstorming meeting was held at the ALA midwinter meeting and was attended by librarians and non-librarians.

-In February, the feedback from the testing was used to further refine the top level categories.

-Starting in February and running through May, small groups began to construct the secondary levels for certain categories.

-Throughout the spring, Laena and David did outreach for the project, writing pieces for the PLA blog and the IFLA
, and reached out to libraries in an unsuccessful search for public library data.

-In May, the current list of categories of the OSC was added to sandbox of the National Science Digital Library Metadata Registry.

Categories with second levels in development:
-Biography & Autobiography
-Performing Arts

After working on the project for a year, we have the following recommendations:
-The project needs a steering committee structure for leadership. The
project is too large in scope for one or two librarians to manage
without other leadership.

-More involvement and leadership from public librarians! They know
the intended audience of the OSC best.

Labels: Open Shelves Classification, OSC

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Intern at LibraryThing!

Not sure what to do with your summer? I just posted this to a few local lists—librarians, design people, etc. I thought I’d post it here too., the innovative social site for book lovers wants an intern.

We can think of four possible “types” for whom we could create a nifty internship. We’re only looking to get one intern, though.

  • “Weird Library Science” (MLS students)
  • “Web 2.0 Programming” (computer students)
  • “Web 2.0 Marketing” (anyone)
  • “Web 2.0 Design” (design students)

We offer:

*Minimum wage, probably
*Full- or part-time
*Cool, anarchic work environment (4 people in Portland, 6 elsewhere)

We’d love to get someone in who could help us, but the focus will be on learning from us, and doing interesting, open-ended and intellectually stimulating projects. 

We’d rather get someone local (Portland, Maine), but if you really want to do something remote, and have a strong idea what you could do with us, we’d love to hear from you.

About LibraryThing:

LibraryThing ( is a social networking and social cataloging site for book lovers. Over 700,000 members have used the site to catalog over 40 million books–and created a whole new way of relating to books and to book people.

Contact: Tim Spalding, Founder (

Labels: employment, internships

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Ann Arbor’s Shaman Drum closing

Ann Arbor’s legendary Shaman Drum Bookshop (website, LibraryThing Local) just announced they are closing after 29 years—and I’m devastated. They were my refuge in graduate school, and one of my favorite indies.

Links: Ann Arbor Chronicle, LA Times, Galleycat, Shaman Drum Announcement

Labels: bookstores, indiebound

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

New developments on the FRBR front

The Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records have changed direction.

Hat-tip: Karen Coyle.

Labels: Uncategorized