Monday, April 24th, 2006

LibraryThing adds language support

LibraryThing now allows you to keep track of the languages in your collection. If you don’t want to do that, you don’t have to. If you do, the changes are far-reaching.

  • Every book has three fields: primary language, secondary language and original language.
  • Languages are drawn from Amazon, your library record or the whole LibraryThing collection (see below).
  • The catalog shows “language” and “original language” fields. Go to “change fields” to see them.
  • Language can be edited within your catalog, much as tags are.
  • Power edit has a versatile “set language” feature.
  • Each language has its own dedicated page (eg., French). At present, these only show the most popular works originally in that language.
  • Your “Fun statistics” page crunches the numbers on the languages in your collection.
  • I’ve adopted the full MARC specification for languages, so you can catalog your Arawak and Elamite holdings. In most circumstances, however, you’re given a shorter list, with the option to see the full one

Not right? Don’t blame LibraryThing!

LibraryThing does its best, but it won’t always get the language right without some help. The reason has to do with the source of the data:

If you find your books through libraries, the languages are picked up from their catalog’s MARC record. That’s the theory. In fact, as we’ve discussed on the Google Group, library records are surprisingly sloppy with languages. (If you doubt that, click the “card” icon and look at the MARC 008 and 041 fields.) Polyglot libraries will cleanup. Of course, if you don’t care about the language field, you don’t need to look at it.

If you find a book on Amazon, LibraryThing guesses based upon which Amazon you used. That’s the best I can do, unfortunately. Amazon doesn’t tell me the language.

Because of the way “works” operate, if you leave the “original language” blank, LibraryThing will make a guess based upon the other copies of the work in the system. As elsewhere, these guesses appear in green. Green guesses are updated daily.

Let’s talk!

This is one of the more extensive changes I’ve made, with tentacles all over the functionality and code. Sometimes the “why” of a feature is complex, but I had to do it that way. Other times, I may have taken the wrong route. I’m guessing people come up with some great suggestions for changes or new, derived features. (And, as someone will surely point out, the system still has problems searching and sorting diacriticals. I’m working on it.)

I’ve set up two discussion threads in the Google Group, one for philosophy/functionality discussion, and one for bugs. I’m looking forward to what people have to say. Gratias tibi ago, Thingamabrarii.

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