Thursday, May 11th, 2006

LibraryThing now the 100th largest library

See end for updates.

LibraryThing has reached its 2,634,375th book! While 2,634,375 doesn’t look special, it is in fact one more than the American Library Associations’s 100th largest library. In dethroning the Kent State system, LibraryThing steps into place as the new 100th largest library in the United States.

Okay, the ALA probably won’t add us to their list. And, okay, LibraryThing isn’t really a library in that sense. (It’s more like the library consortium OCLC—if OCLC were in Lilliput.) But the milestone is pretty cool nevertheless. In nine months, LibraryThing has gone from zero to 2.6 million books. At this rate, we’ll hit the top 30 by the end of the year, and there’s no reason to believe LibraryThing won’t top the Library of Congress’ 29 million volumes some day.

Of course, everyone knows that private collections must dwarf library ones, but it’s cool to see that demonstrated. Regular people have a lot of books. First-time visitors often fixate on the number of Harry Potters in LibraryThing (almost 20,000). But the “long tail” goes very far out. I once regarded Engel’s Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army as a sort of private possession—I only ever met a handful of people who’d read it, and I studied Greek history. Now I have 10 other people to talk to. (Trust me: the title’s boring, but it’s groundbreaking stuff.)

Incidentally, the 2,634,375th book was Gaugin’s Noa Noa: The Tahitian Journal (Dover, 1985), added by the Boston-based sionnac, a hard-core (1,165-volume) bibliophile in Boston. Whoever the heck you are, LibraryThing owes you a beer! I’m down to Boston all the time, and Abby even lives there. Take a picture of yourself with the book. I’ll post it up here.

Now does anyone know somebody at the ALA?

BTW: Steady yourself. The next week or so is going to be a merciless barrage of announcements and analysis of announcements. I have blog entries stacked up like cordwood here, just waiting to go. Some of you may have seen LC subjects tiptoe back in unannounced. There’s a lot more there.

Update: Please note, talk of “dethroning” Kent State is tongue-in-cheek. I am not asserting that LibraryThing is better than Kent State’s library. I’m not even asserting LibraryThing really is a library—you can’t visit, after all, and you certainly can’t take out books! (As Google would say “yet.”) But I draw the line at the idea that LibraryThing and its libraries are all “arbitrary” and inferior to “actual” libraries. On the contrary, many LibraryThing libraries are assembled deliberately and with the sort of domain knowledge institutional libraries cannot match. For a rather heated discussion of this, check out LibraryTavern’s comments.

Update to update: I was WONDERING why nobody left comments, and now I know. Blogger was throwing the comments elsewhere on my server. So you could see them if you clicked “comments,” but they didn’t show up on the main page. (My mistake, ultimately.) So, apologies to the commenters—you must have thought I was dissing you. The conversation is now a bit involuted, as Lycanthropist and I mostly debated over on LibraryTavern.

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