Monday, September 14th, 2015

Music and movie cataloging (but we’re still a book site)

Short version: LibraryThing is and will remain a book site. But we never stopped people from cataloging other media, like movies and music. We’re now making it much easier to do. Check it out and add your non-book library at

Medium version: LibraryThing is a book site, and will remain so. But many members, especially our small libraries, have always cataloged other media, such as movies and music. We allowed it, but didn’t support it well at all. In particular, we disabled non-book searching on Amazon, allowing it only on our library sources.

A few months ago we introduced a robust concept of media format. We’ve now opened up cataloging other media on the Amazon sources, which are far easier and better for the purpose.

Check it out at


Long version:

Why Are We Doing This? Adding other media has been planned for years. The main driver has been small libraries—churches, community centers, small museums, etc.—a major constituent of LibraryThing’s success. Although small libraries mostly collect books, they don’t limit themselves to books any more than public and academic libraries do. Our failings in the area really hurt us.

This change means that LibraryThing is now a “complete” cataloging system. This lets us reach small libraries as we never could before—something we plan to do even more strongly when TinyCat debuts.

We are also conscious that many “regular” members wanted to catalog their non-book libraries. I want to, anyway, and I know I’m not alone.

Worried? We are conscious of some members’ worries, for example that LibraryThing is “turning into” a movie site. These are valid concerns. Here’s how we responded and will respond:

Screenshot 2015-09-14 14.16.30

Movies have been on LibraryThing for a long time.
  • LibraryThing is a site for book lovers and readers. This isn’t going to change.
  • Books get me and the rest of the team up in the morning. That isn’t going to change.
  • LibraryThing has had movies and music since the beginning—hundreds of thousands are already cataloged. Directors and composers have had author pages since the beginning. The recommendations system has recommended movies and music since the beginning. If movies “pollute” LibraryThing, it’s been polluted for a long time.
  • Now, however, we know what’s a book, a movie, and so forth. Knowing means we can adapt the site’s features to deal with that. As a start, by popular request, we’ve changed our site search to “facet” by format. Other accomodations, like a way to refuse all non-book recommendations, can certainly be considered.
  • We don’t expect a crushing influx of non-book media or members. But if LibraryThing appeals to new people who want to catalog all their media, that isn’t a bad thing.

New Features. The following features have been added, or changed, in order of importance.

  • Add Books sources now include music, movies and combined sources for all the Amazon national sites (e.g., “ books, music and movies”).
  • To build awareness, we’ve added one “Amazon books, music and movies” source to all members’ sources. If you don’t want it, the new Add Books sources system makes it easy to delete. There are also sources for just movies and just music.
  • Amazon-added movies and music have covers, based on the ASIN, not the ISBN. This change also gives LibraryThing ebook covers.
  • We’ve added media-based faceting in site search.
  • You can search both Amazon and Overcat by UPC.

Cataloging Non-Books Media. Movies and music aren’t books, but libraries catalog them with some of the same basic structure and concepts. Movies and music have titles, publication dates, subjects, Dewey classifications, etc. “Authors” is more complex. Library records generally mix directors, actors, producers and screenwriters into one set of contributors, with their roles not always marked. Amazon records are better here, clearly delineating the various roles. But they don’t have the name-control libraries have.

We’ve solved this as follows:

  • When possible, movies get director as their main author. This is always possible with Amazon records, but not with library records.
  • We’ve improved how we handle author names from Amazon, leveraging Amazon data against what we know from tens of millions of library records. So, for example, we’re handing “The Beatles” as “The Beatles” not “Beatles, The.” This change improves Amazon cataloging generally.
  • Where listed, actors, producers, musicians and so forth get secondary author status and roles. This means that actors have LibraryThing author pages. (But they had them before, as noted above. If this proves a problem, we can mark them somehow as a site-wide feature.)
  • We’ve improved media format detection of MARC records within Overcat, especially for odd MARC formats, like DANMARC (a specialized MARC format used in—you guessed it—Denmark).

Let Us Know. Let us know what you think on Talk.

Labels: cataloging, new feature, new features


  1. Matt Ries says:

    On the whole I think this is a good idea, the main reason I think this is because it could be a way to gauge how good a book is adapted to film, or which film adaptation of a book is better than another.

    I don’t know if this is possible, but if there was a way to connect books to film adaptation(s) of that book then rate how good that a particular film is in relation to the book, it would help those interest know which films to watch and which to avoid (if they were interested).

    I doubt that can be possible anytime soon, but something for LibraryThing to consider.

  2. EowynA says:

    I am delighted to hear of this expansion. I have always thought of movies as a story in another form.

  3. Jan Elkins says:

    I think it will be easy to keep them separate. I will just create new collections for them: Movie library, mystery movies, etc. Actually, it should be fun.

  4. Katie Virag says:

    As an avid book lover AND and avid music lover, this makes me really happy! 😀

  5. Mark Lester says:

    I tried to use LT for cataloging my collection of classical CDs and LPs when I first joined, and it just didn’t work well. I’m looking forward to giving it a shot again in the near future; thanks for making these enhancements to the software.

  6. discordia says:

    Does this include support for comic books? (Please say yes!!)

  7. libraryhermit says:

    About 47 years ago I started collecting books. About 40 years ago I started collecting records. About 37 years ago I started collecting records that had a booklet insert. So I have always considered that even if we ignored the recording for a moment, each LP-booklet entity could be argued to merit a LibraryThing entry by virtue of its booklet. However, I have never put a recording in my library on LibraryThing yet. I don’t know if I will, because I still have another several thousand regular books to catalogue before I could even begin to catalogue my recordings. But thank you, Tim, for providing all the valuable information above. I support everything that was presented.

  8. libraryhermit says:

    Continuation of comment above: because I have an OCD habit of reading every shred of information on the recordings I listen to, that means that a couple of thousand of LPs, later cassettes and CDs, and later DVDs that I took out from our local public library, and from my own collection, I have read a lot of booklets/liner notes over those years. Some of them were a couple of paragraphs long, and some of them were 100 or 200 page booklets full of analysis and the libretto in the case of operas. But I sure like the larger print better in the LP days compared to the miniscule print of the DVD era.

  9. libraryhermit says:

    The older I got, the harder it got to read because the same time my sight got worse was when the print got harder to read, instead of the inverse, regrettably.

  10. sheclimber says:

    I’ll be excited to try this. I started using LibraryThing because I would lose track of what books I’d read and where I was in various series. LibraryThing has been a life-saver and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Since I’ve said on several occasions I need a LibraryThing for movies because I can never remember what I’ve seen and other sites just don’t work very well in my opinion. So now to have them together? Perfection!

  11. FanRang says:

    Does this include support for comic books?

  12. DrT says:

    This makes me happy. I have a lot of CD’s and DVD I wanted to catalogue and doing them on on LT is going to be great!

  13. Alf says:

    Might there be a way to import ones LPs from Discogs ( Discogs sucks for cataloguing LPs. The reason is that LT lets one make his or her record whatever they like, but Discogs freezes one’s ability if one doesn’t follow specific rules, or if one’s Canadian edition, for a frequent example, doesn’t exist. I have several LPs dicogs has not heard of, yet I can’t add them and it’s very frustrating. (I rail against capitalising every word, because I’m a librarian! But you cannot get by on Discogs without, even in French where capitals are even less used than in English, and thus I’ve been placed on the newbie programme.)

    I’d like to abandon Discogs. They do have a built-in method of marketing, so one can offer for sale on their site more readily than here. Discogs is clever, but puts obstacles in my way.

    • Loranne says:

      We don’t currently have that ability in place, but we’re working on expanding our import functions to allow for importing of movies and music. I’m passing your suggestion on to our developers—thanks for the feedback!

    • Luchtpint says:

      Good idea, Alf. I was thinking much the same thing, since I have a discogs profile, also. As far as I know, there’s an Export catalog feature in discogs, but I have never used it so far.

  14. Ruth Temple says:

    Magazines, please! We have a nearly complete set of the run of a couple of major journal publications in our field, and would love to be able to add them by ISSN. *wist*
    Thank you for music and video, and for electronic cataloging of existing books in their varied formats. Love it!

  15. Gene Ruyle says:

    This is a seven-league stride forward that makes me very happy — even though a busy schedule cause by my book’s coming out under a new publisher in e-book form will delay my personally being able to learn and incorporate the new formats for media listings!



  16. Linda says:

    I love that you used a jpeg from my absolute #1 movie of all time, Blade Runner, as an example.

  17. Piggelin says:

    Thank you!
    Will definitely try this functionality 🙂

  18. Benjamin Sutton says:

    As a professionnal musician and archivist, I’m looking for a way to catalog my music scores and parts collection. It would be nice to be able to do it on LibraryThing!

  19. Thanks for Music and movie cataloging. It is very helpful me.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    This is great! Thanks!

    Board games is another category that we have in our library, though “Puzzles and Games” may serve a wider audience.

  21. JT says:

    This is a good feature, BUT…having a media type (i.e. book, movie, music, etc.) and being able to separate by that media type would make it GREAT!

  22. Tom says:

    Do LibraryThing and TinyCat work well with sheet music collections, especially choral music for a choir’s library?

    • Loranne says:

      You can certainly use either or both tools for this purpose—I know there are other members who use it that way. It really depends on your library’s individual needs. Feel free to email us at if you’d like to discuss specific features, or functions your catalog will need.

  23. Anna Korn says:

    We would like to see functionality for cataloging periodicals, newsletters and ‘zines as well. We can usually do it by adding an entry manually and overloading the comments with the volume and number data.
    We are cataloging the history and development of the Pagan movement. One portion of this is the large number of Pagan newsletters and magazines from the late sixties through the nineties.

  24. Beata says:

    Since I use LT for books only and other platforms for media I would like to be able to search Amazon for books only. I noticed that it takes me much longer to find the title I need because talking books come up first and I have to look for print bib records.I end up choosing wrong record and having to change later. Please consider having this option, thank you.

  25. We have a lot of magazines.
    They are more difficult to catalog because you have to keep track of the title, which can change over time.
    Also, I like to enter the masthead saying, which may also change over time, and not necessarily when the title changes.
    Also, the date may be a day, a month, or a season, or even a year, so that needs to be a text field, not a numeric or data field.
    Plus, often, each issue will have a theme or motife, which I also like to enter.
    And then, of course, the problem of each issue having articles.
    Many of the magazines we carry are journals, and the author and title are an important part of the catalog information.

    But I would LOVE to see magazines added to the catalog!

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