Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008


Internet Librarian ended up worth it. There weren’t that many people, but our booth was mobbed even so. Some came for the free LibraryThing t-shirts (being secretly given out, but word got out), free CueCats barcode scanners or the free laptop stickers. Most came to see LibraryThing for Libraries and our new reviews feature. To my great surprise, people got the Facebook application.

But what do you do when the conference is winding down for the day, and no customers are around. First, you run around with a rhino, attacking other exhibitors. Then you settle down to a nice game of rhino-catch!

Many apologies to the esteemed Christa Burns, whose presentation was affected by rhinos–mostly wondering what the heck was going on.

Next party or conference, we’re going to organize a formal game of rhino sports. I think it’d be particularly fun to half-fill the rhino with water—a full rhino would be immovable—and see whom it burst upon.

Labels: fun, il2008, internet librarians, rhinos

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Internet Librarian—help!

This blog rarely hosts up-to-the-minute reportage, but here it is: Internet Librarian is a bust!

Most everyone we see loves LibraryThing for Libraries and our new reviews feature (announced today)—but nobody’s here! There are only two rows for exhibitors, and attendees aren’t walking them. According to an unnamed source—unnamed because I don’t know his name—attendance is way down this year.

So, if you’re here, come by! We’d love to show you the remarkable new system we’ve built. And we’ve got laptop stickers, t-shirts and cuecats to give out. And we’ve got nothing to do tonight either. Last night Sonya and I had a business meeting at a Denny’s.

Don’t make us do that again!
Update: Things looked up for about 30 minutes.

Labels: il2008, internet librarians, librarything for libraries

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

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

LibraryThing at Internet Librarian / Reviews at My Library

We’ll be at Internet Librarian in Monterey, CA, Monday-Wednesday. We’re at booth 316, in the boonies, I think.

We’ll be showing off LibraryThing for Libraries and our new “Reviews at my Library.”

We’re going to blog “Reviews at My Library” on Monday or Tuesday, but you can take a sneak peak at reviews in action at High Plains Library District or Los Gatos Public Library.

Labels: il2008, librarything for libraries

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Open Shelves Classification Update: What We Are Working On

Our first priority is to set the top level categories for the OSC.

Many ideas have been discussed in the thread on this topic, now it is time to test if these categories actually represent the holdings of public libraries.

We need volunteers to take the working list of top level categories listed in the wiki (…) and look at online catalogs for public libraries. Most online catalogs will allow you to search by Dewey Call Number, so Laena is going through and finding the correlating Dewey Numbers for each of the top level categories. She should be done this later today and will post the information to the wiki. Please search by Dewey Numbers correlated to our top level categories and then report on the wiki how many books turn up for each category. You will need to figure out how to search using wildcards in your catalog so that you turn up books will longer Dewey Numbers as well.

Once we have this information, we can then evaluate if the working list of top level categories needs to be edited.

Labels: Uncategorized

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The Jean Valjean of the library world

The biblioblogosphere–and Uncontrolled Vocabulary–are abuzz about Heidi Dalibor, a Grafton, MN, 20-year-old arrested for failing to pay library fines.

After keeping two paperbacks (White Oleander and another of Angels and Demons) out for five months, Ms. Dalibor’s library turned her over to the police. She ignored a letter about a court date, and woke up to policemen taking her away.

What do I think? Well, I’m glad you asked.

First, libraries and other book professionals generally go out of their way to insulate patrons from law-enforcement activity. Right-thinking librarians call lawyers if police ask questions about check-outs or computer use without a warrant. My local bookstore in Georgetown, KramerBooks, defied a federal subpoena to turn over sales records showing that Monica Lewinsky bought a book for president Clinton—on reader-privacy grounds. Vermont Librarians, alarmed that the Patriot Act could forbid them from confirming that the FBI had accessed records, posted cards reading “The FBI has not been here. Watch carefully for the discrete removal of this sign.”

All this show admirable professional ethics and, except for the Kramerbooks case*, I agree with the policies. But there is something strange about being so forward in defense of your patrons’ right to use the library, but throwing them to the wolves when they misuse it. I know there’s a categorical difference between protecting reader privacy and protecting readers from paying their debts**. But there’s also a big quantitative difference between misusing library computers to receive child pornography and failing to return two paperbacks. I’d like my local library to take it easy on the cuffs and mug shots as a general principle, not just when a privacy issue is at stake.

Second, I can’t understand the perverse glee so many bloggers find in this matter, or the overheated posturing about “public tax dollars.” Libraries exist to shovel books at local residents. The goal is lifelong readers, not this week’s “returners.” Every now and then people will abuse the rules and keep books for too long. Moderate fines are an appropriate response to that. But the goal is getting the books out there, and some loss should be expected.***

Third, I recently returned an audiobook to the Portland Public Library after, um, more months than five****. They were really nice about it. And I am really really glad I didn’t end up in jail.

*The book was evidence completely unrelated to its content or the reading habits of either party. Would KramerBooks turn over sales records if someone was found

Labels: crime, libraries

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

BookFinder Report

The 2008 BookFinder Report is now out. The report, compiled by the staff of, a cross-site used-book search service, tracks hot used books.

On top of the “Arts” section for the fifth year—Madonna’s Sex. I’m not sure why. LibraryThing members rate it pretty poorly.

Then again, it’s bound in metal

Check it out:

Labels: Uncategorized

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008


I love the Despair, Inc. posters, so this library-related riff got to me.

Poster by Darien superstar John Blyberg (CC-Attribution); hat-tip Michael Stephens.

I’ve wondered if lamination and similar protective techniques in libraries don’t encourage the very disaster they anticipate—”Oh, the book has a plastic cover on it? I guess that means its okay if I read it while eating a meatball sub!”

Labels: Uncategorized

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

More on covers

Three quick updates to our announcement that we were releasing one million covers.

  • We’ve raised the daily covers maximum to 5,000. In fact, you get much more than this as we only count when the cover has to be made. That is, if you or anyone else hits the same cover more than one within a few days, it counts as one hit. If that’s not enough, let me know and I’ll raise your number.
  • Art Zemon has released a simple LibraryThing covers caching script in PHP. We welcome local caching.
  • Library Journal did a nice piece on the effort.
  • UPDATE: Blogger Alejandro Garza has instructions for the Millennium Module for Drupal.
  • UPDATE: The LawLibrary Blog has a nice piece on the legalities of the issue.
  • UPDATE: We’ve started a wiki page for Covers with basic instructions.

Labels: book covers, coverthing

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Index Translationum

Anirvan, over at the Bookfinder Journal, stumbled over a book-translation database called Index Translationum* operated by—of all things—UNESCO.

The search engine is early-90s bad, but the results are decent. Here are all the translations it knows of my wife’s The Mermaids Singing:

Carey, Lisa: L’île aux sirènes [French] / Catherine Pageard / Paris: Presses de la Cité [France], 1999. 331 p. English: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: Havfruenes sang [English] / Elsa Frogner / Oslo: Egmont Hjemmets bokforl. [Norway], 1999. 253 s. Norwegian: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: L’île aux sirènes [French] / Catherine Pageard / Montréal: Libre expression [Canada], 1999. 331 p. English: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: Jeg kan høre havfruer synge [Danish] / Ulla Warrern / Kbh.: Lindhardt og Ringhof [Denmark], 1998. 242 p. English: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: Merineitsite laul [Estonian] / Uta Saar / Tallinn: Perioodika [Estonia], 2000. 284, 1 p. English: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: Das Lied der Insel : Roman [German] (Vollst. Taschenbuchausg.) / Gabriele Gockel; Petra Hrabak / München: Droemer Knaur [Germany], 2002. 347 S. English: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: Das Lied der Insel : Roman [German] (Vollst. Taschenbuchausg.) / Gabriele Gockel; Petra Hrabak / München: Droemer Knaur [Germany], 2001. 347 S. English: The mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: L’île aux sirènes [French] / Catherine Pageard / Paris: France loisirs [France], 2000. 294 p., couv. ill. en coul. English: The mermaids singings
Carey, Lisa: Merenneitojen laulu [Finnish] (ISBN: 951-0-22963-6) / Eva Siikarla / Porvoo, Helsinki, Juva: WSOY [Finland], 1998. 360 s. English: Mermaids singing
Carey, Lisa: Merenneitojen laulu [Finnish] (ISBN: 951-643-934-9) / Eva Siikarla / Helsinki: Suuri suomalainen kirjakerho [Finland], 1998. 305, 1 s. English: Mermaids singing

There are some clear dups, and its missing the Dutch translation, Luister naar de zee (known to LibraryThing). Still, it’s pretty good.

The various FAQ pages on the site aren’t very helpful. Does anyone know where it comes from and who’s really making it? Is someone parsing MARC records from national libraries? Is it done by hand? The logo suggests CDs are involved. Can I buy them? I get a dump of the data?

*As a former classics scholar the name caught me. Was this the return of “international Latin”? (And if so, is the Foreign Service looking to hire?) Alas, the Index dates from 1932.

Labels: Uncategorized