Archive for November, 2008

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Common Knowledge: Names, Relationships and Events

Chris and I have introduced four new Common Knowledge fields, for authors and works.

Author Names. LibraryThing’s author system is personally libertarian and globally democratic. You can change your own author names to your heart’s delight. On the global level author names are combined and separated by members, with the most common name ending up on top.

That system has two main problems. First, Library has no good method for separatin out homonymous authors. (It’s a big problem; it’s on our list.) And most-common logic has its limitations, particularly in picking the best name for an author and in laying out what the many variants mean.

To improve things we’ve added a number of optional name fields. “Canonical name” was already there, as a foolproof way to set the “most common” form. To this we’ve added “Legal name” and “Other names.”

“Legal Name” is provided for users who want to record the most accurate, most fiddly form of a name, eg., “George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron.” It can hold multiple names, to capture given names, and so forth.* “Other names” is for pen names, aliases, stage names, etc.

Two examples should illustrate the differences nicely:

Canonical Name: Twain, Mark
Legal Name: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne
Other Names: Snodgrass, Quintus Curtius
Canonical Name: Rice, Anne
Legal Name: Rice, Howard Allan Frances O’Brien
O’Brien, Howard Allen (given)
Other Names: Rampling, Anne
Roquelaure, A. N.

Relationships. We’ve also added a “Relationships” field, intended to capture when an author’s spouse, son or other relative is also an author (eg., Martin Amis). So far at least, it’s only intended to capture author-to-author relations, creating author-page links. LibraryThing can’t be a all-out genealogy site!*

The result can be rather fun. Starting from Isabel Fonseca, author of Attachment you can now go to well-known British novelist Martin Amis, to his well-known father Kingsley Amis, to his second wife, the British novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, to her first huband Peter Scott, a popular naturalist whose father was Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic) and godfather Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, great grandfather of Kevin Bacon (not true).

Events. We’ve also added an “Important Events” field to works. “Important Events” now follows “Persons” and “Important Places.” It was designed for events like the Great Fire of London, World War II or the 2000 Election.

As with Important Places, it is useful to agree on terms. CK’s autocomplete function helps there. When in doubt, however, I’d go with the Wikipedia form for both fields.

*Porn names not allowed.
**I’m not so sure about “friend” relationships, although that’s currently allowed. I found it difficult enough to reach an end from Isabel Fonseca. With friends, I don’t think I could have ever stopped.

Labels: authors, common knowledge, new features

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

The First Ever Catalog Flash-Mob

flash mob catalogingThe mob.

On Saturday, we descended on St. John’s Church in Beverly MA, in a “flash mob” of cataloging fools!*

Check out Sonya’s pictures, Elizabeth Thomsen’s pictures and her blog post.

Turnout was much more than we expected–twenty people!** With so many hands–and despite some wifi problems–we got an enormous amount done. By lunch time we were flying, and after powering through the actual job, the 1,363 items in the church library (member StJohnsBeverlyFarms), we went ahead and tackled the rector’s 734 books too (member: TadsLibrary***). I have a mind to go back and start in on all the parishioners’ libraries, particularly that of a local author of some renown.

Cataloging went quickly for some books–everyone got a CueCat barcode scanner. Others took more work. A troupe of Simmons students tackled the church’s motley collection of VHS tapes, mostly by hand, including lots of special comments. Katya0133, cataloger, friend of Sonya’s and Legacy Library superstar, took some of the toughest stuff, including original cataloging. A handful of items were so rare they hadn’t made it into WorldCat. (We’re happy to part with them, for a million dollars!.)

It was an amazing day; everyone was helpful, friendly, and amped to be there. We left feeling weary, satisfied, and despite the Episcopal coloring, vaguely Amish.

So, let’s do it again! Why not do it somewhere else? New York? California? We could time it with a big book show or a library conference.**** Jeremy is also very open to blending flash-mob cataloging with the Legacy Library project, by collecting to do a house museum or an important collection in a historical society.

*The Wikipedia definition of a flash mob is “A group of people who converge on a spot at a specific time, perform some action, and disperse quickly.”
**How many world libraries have twenty catalogers?
***Who still doesn’t have a profile picture, Amy!
****Just imagine, 500 librarians from the ALA show descending upon every church, synagogue, house museum and lean-to library in Denver.

Labels: beverly farms, cataloging, church catalogs, flash mob

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

This Saturday: Flash-Mob Cataloging Party

Book geeks! We need you! Come, take up arms cuecats and help!

We’re having a “flash-mob” cataloging party November 15th, Saturday, in Beverly, MA (just north of Boston). We’ll descend on St. John’s Episcopal Church, catalog their 1,200-odd books, eat some pizza, talk some talk and leave them with a gleaming new LibraryThing catalog. Books, bibliophiles, conversation, barcode scanners, pizza! (Not to mention Mike, Sonya, Tim, and probably Abby.)

Details: Join us..
* The day: Saturday, November 15th.
* The time: TBD, probably starting at 10:00 or 11:00, but come whenever.
* The place: St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms, MA (Google map)

See the LibraryThing Local page.

Read the initial blog post

There’s a discussion on the Bostonians group. I’m sure we can figure out how to get even car-less people there. The commuter rail gets you very close to the church.

Come on: Pizza. Laptops. CueCats. Take pictures. Leave after a day’s work with a LibraryThing catalog in place. Do good. Have fun.

Just email Sonya @ for details/to RSVP.

Labels: cataloging, flash mob

Monday, November 10th, 2008

November Early Reviewer Books

The November batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 60 books this month, and a grand total 1,645 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Sunday, November 30th at 6pm EST.


Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

ABA Publishing Algonquin Books Ballantine Books
Beacon Press Bethany House Bloomberg Press
Center Street Classical Comics Del Rey
Delacorte Press Delta DK Publishing
Faber and Faber Hachette Book Group Harper
Henry Holt and Company Hunter House Knopf Canada
Laughing Gull Press Little, Brown and Company Lost Hills Books
Loving Healing Press McClelland & Stewart Modern History Press
New York Review Books Newmarket Press North Atlantic Books
Orca Book Publishers Other Press Picador
Random House Springboard Press St. Martin’s Griffin
St. Martin’s Press Swank Books The Overlook Press
The Permanent Press Trumpeter Books Viking Books
W.W. Norton Wizards of the Coast

Labels: early reviewers, LTER