Archive for July, 2011

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Goodbye John!

Goodbye John (Felius), LibraryThing’s long-time sysadmin.

John’s been great to us. He took on a system under severe scaling strain, going down all the time and held together with string, and he sized it up and made it reliable. He moved the whole system from Portland to Boston, and made it both safer and faster (example, example). After almost four years with LibraryThing, John is moving on to Engine Yard, a Ruby-on-Rails cloud-hosting provider. His work and his company—John was a lot of fun to chat with at night—will be sorely missed. John promises to hang around as a member. He’s been one since 2005—long before we hired him.

We finished hiring John’s successor. More news soon.

PS: John managed to time his exit to System Administrator Appreciation Day. Believe me, we appreciate ’em.

Labels: sysadmin, systems adminitration

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Feature: Where did you get your books?

By popular demand, I’ve added a feature for members to keep track of where they got their books. “From where?” takes two answers, either venues from LibraryThing Local, including bookstores and libraries, or “free text.”

You can find the feature:

By default, members’ “From where?” data is public—unless their account itself is set to “private.” If you want to record the information but not share it, you can do so. The option is available on your account page and when you add a “From where?” location under “Privacy.”

Come talk about it here.

Labels: new feature, new features

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Legacy Libraries 2.0: lists, clouds, and more!

Thanks to some fantastic work by Chris Holland (conceptdawg) we’ve just launched a brand new homepage for the Legacy Libraries project, chock full of interesting features and data:

It includes the ability to search the contents of Legacy Libraries (LLs) as a whole or by selected subsets; you can also browse LLs by category (like Authors or Signers of the Declaration of Independence), and see a whole series of clouds about the libraries.

For each category of Legacy Library, like Authors, we’ve added new status markers (complete, in progress, proposed, unitemized), and you can sort each list by status, name, date, or library size.

We’ve also integrated data about the Legacy Libraries into a slightly modified version of Common Knowledge, so each library, regardless of completion status, now has an LLCK profile (here’s John Adams’) containing data about the person and their library (largely for cloud-creation purposes, among other things). Feel free to augment this data, but please do read the help page first, since there are some differences between this and the way other CK edits are done. Any questions, just let me know (, or jbd1 on LT).

This LLCK data allows us to do some really interesting things, like display proposed and unitemized libraries well for the first time (example) and also keep better track of project status. We also, at long last, have a way to highlight the many members of LT who’ve worked so hard on these projects over the (nearly) four years we’ve been cataloging Legacy Libraries (see the contributors cloud at the bottom of the page).

You’ll also notice some integration of these new features on profile and author pages, and Chris has whipped up a handy “Featured Legacy Libraries” module for your homepage (by default at the bottom of the right column).

For more on this, see the Talk thread, and as always, let me know if you have data on a library we should add or further information about any one already on our radar. Submissions of library data are always welcomed and appreciated!

Labels: common knowledge, legacies, legacy libraries

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Technical jobs: Work for LibraryThing

IMPORTANT UPDATE July 28, 2011: Jobs are still open. Programmers should also look at The LibraryThing Programming Quiz.

LibraryThing is hiring! We’re looking for smart, fast, diligent and creative people to work in Portland, Maine or remotely.

There are four “jobs” out there, which we expect to be filled by 2–3 people.

  • programmer. Work primarily on We have a lot planned. We need you to help us do it.
  • Library programmer. Work primarily on our library products, LibraryThing for Libraries and Library Anywhere. Both products are growing fast–already in over 400 library systems around the world. Library Anywhere is a technical marvel.
  • Designer-developer. Help spruce up LibraryThing and LibraryThing for Libraries.
  • Systems administrator. We recently advertised for a Systems Administrator. We may keep that a separate position or distribute responsibilities between old and new technical staff.

Technical skills.

  • Necessary. LibraryThing is made with PHP, mostly in non-OO code. You should be a sure-footed, experienced and rapid PHP coder.
  • Core. JavaScript (with JQuery, Prototype), CSS, MySQL.
  • Bonus. Python, Solr, library systems and formats (OPACs, MARC, etc). A library degree is a definite plus—we have three MLSs on staff now. Publishing or bookstore experience is also a plus.
  • Design. The standard software and a keen eye.
  • Systems administration. If you think you could help out here, see the systems administrator job for more details.


  • We like to hire people who care about books and libraries, and believe in a open and humane vision of the future for both. We live to create technologies that make readers happy and keep libraries vital.
  • LibraryThing is an informal, high-pressure and high-energy environment. Programming is rapid, creative and unencumbered by process. We put a premium on speed and reliability, communication and responsibility.
  • Working remotely gives you freedom, but also requires discipline and internal motivation.
  • All LibraryThing employees interact with members and/or libraries.
  • We develop and refine ideas together. We need your ideas and your criticism as much as your labor.
  • We do so much and with so many technologies, learning is a job requirement. Mentoring is somewhat limited by distance, so you need to be able to learn on your own.


LibraryThing is headquartered in Portland, Maine, but most employees are remote. We’d love to find someone local, but remote is fine. Unless you’re in Australia, we expect you to visit the office for group meetings from time to time.


Salary plus gold-plated health and dental insurance. We require hard work but are flexible about hours.


An excellent recent hire forced us to rethink our cheese-lovers-only requirement, and as much as Abby and I might want requirements to love wine or coffee are probably illegal. So this is the first LibraryThing job post without any food requirements. However, if you are partial to any of these, we can, um, guarantee you’ll get what you want at the LT office.

How to apply

Send an email and resume to Instead of a cover letter, go through the blog post in your email, responding to it, especially the skills and intangibles part.

Labels: employment, jobs

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

ReadaThing Planned for August 6-7

The good folks in the ReadaThing group have planned a 48-hour readathon for Saturday and Sunday, August 6-7*. You can join up here by signing up to read for an hour of your choice, and list what book(s) you’ll read on the participation wiki.

Or, if you’re up for a bigger challenge, Saturday August 6 (local time) is also the official 2011 “Do Nothing But Read” Day, for which you can sign up here. The organizers invite all to join in, so if your schedule allows and you’re in need of a nice long day of reading (and who among us isn’t!?), take the plunge!

* In keeping with the international spirit of LT, this ReadaThing is running from noon Saturday to noon Monday New Zealand time (8 p.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday EDT). So depending on where you are, you could be reading anytime from 5-8 August!

Labels: DNBRD, Do Nothing but Read Day, reading

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Job: Be LibraryThing’s Systems Administrator

John chatting with Abby and Jeremy at the colo.

After four happy years at LibraryThing I’ve decided to take up an offer to move on to a new role. This means we need to a find a sysadmin to replace me!

LibraryThing is the labour of love of a small group of smart, dedicated people who work hard to do a lot with a little.

Qualifications: We’re looking for someone with broad systems administration experience, who can quickly pick up unfamiliar technologies, diagnose problems and keep everything running smoothly. You need to be calm under pressure, cautious and an excellent communicator. We’re a small team, so when things break at 4am, you need to be available.

LibraryThing is “headquartered” in Portland, Maine, but the servers are in Boston and many employees are in neither. You can be anywhere—I’m in Tasmania!

Experience: Applicants need considerable experience running websites. Experience in Linux systems administration is essential; we use RHEL and CentOS, but you’ve probably got professional experience with at least half a dozen distros. Experience with MySQL is also important, including replication, monitoring and tuning. You will need to be able to demonstrate experience with remote server administration including lights-out management techniques and equipment.

Technologies. Here’s a partial list of the technologies we use.

  • Apache
  • Nginx
  • Memcache
  • Solr
  • Subversion
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Bash shell scripting
  • Munin
  • rrdtool
  • Xen virtualisation
  • NFS
  • LVM
  • iscsi

Abby looking at the space where the new servers should go.

How We Work. LibraryThing has a somewhat unusual development culture. It is not for everyone. We develop quickly, knocking out features in hours or days, not weeks.

We develop incrementally and opportunistically, assuming that member feedback will sometimes overturn our plans in mid-course, and that some projects will fail. Everyone who works for LibraryThing must interact directly with members.

LibraryThing is more than a job for us. We work long, hard and usually sober, but not necessarily during “regular” hours. We love what we do. We want someone who will feel the same way.

Compensation. Salary plus gold-plated health insurance. This is a full-time job.

How to Apply.

Email: Tim and I will read your applications.

Send an email with your resume. In your email, go through the sections of the blog post above, and indicate how you match up with the job. Be specific. Do not send a cover letter.

Labels: employment, jobs, servers

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

July Early Reviewers Batch is up!

The July 2011 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 100 books this month, and a grand total of 2,918 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 Monday, August 1st at 6 p.m. EDT.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, and a whole bunch more. 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!

Bloomsbury Double Day Religion Henry Holt and Company
Del Rey Spectra Kregel Publications
Taylor Trade Publishing WaterBrook Press Putnam Books
Riverhead Books St. Martin’s Griffin Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Bronwen Publishing The Writer’s Coffee Shop Sterling Publishing
The Permanent Press f/64 Publishing Galaxy Press
Mulholland Books Ballantine Books Charlesbridge
Candlewick Press Telegram Books Kube Publishing
William Morrow Human Kinetics Pants On Fire Press
Nonstop Press BookViewCafe Demos Health
Stone Bridge Press Sourcebooks White Whisker Books
Harper Paperbacks Small Beer Press Great Potential Press
Hunter House Gunga Peas Books, LLC Dope KPC
Black Threads Press Little, Brown and Company New Society Publishers
JournalStone St. Martin’s Press St. Martin’s Minotaur
Tapuat Publishing Orca Book Publishers Telemachus Press
Choice Publishing House Palmary Press Doubleday Books
Unbridled Books MindLeaves Blacksmith Books
Hampton House Publishing, LLC Rovira i Virgili University Press

Labels: early reviewers, LTER