Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Series Gets a Revamp


Short Version

Today we roll out a new version of “Series” and “Publisher Series.” Here are some pages to check out:

We’re going to be discussing New Series starting from this Talk post.

The rest of this blog post explains the whys and wherefores in great detail.

“Old” Series

Before today, series were based on the Common Knowledge system. Common Knowledge is a simple “fielded wiki,” a system for keeping and tracking simple values.(1) To add a series to a work, you’d go to the common area of a work page and fill it out as follows:


It got complex quickly. Here’s one Star Wars book, with stuff inside parentheses for sorting and labeling.


Needless to say, an entry like “Star Wars (0.0112994350|88.5-22 BBY)” was inaccessible to many. Nor could works be added to a series on the actual series page. Series didn’t extend well to other languages—unless the names coincided, there was endless duplication of effort. A lack of any sort of grouping or subseries gummed up major series with edge-cases, like the re-segmentation of the Lord of the Rings applicable to only some Japanese editions, and made it tricky for users to look at a series and figure out what to read. And while some information came to adhere to series, the whole system was jerry-rigged. Finally, adding NEW features was truly impossible!

It is testimony to the passion and diligence of LibraryThing members over the last 13 years that they have added some 125,000 “regular” series and 30,000 “publisher” series!

“New Series”

New series starts with a more sophisticated data structure and user interface. Series exist as their own, complex entity, like works and authors are, not as series of Common Knowledge “strings.” This means:

  • Adding to series can be done on either work pages or series pages. (On work pages, series have been moved to the (renamed) “Series and work relationships” section.)
  • Sorting works within series is accomplished by dragging and dropping, or by giving the series a default sort, such as by publication or title.
  • Adding labels like “book one” can be done directly, not as part of a larger formula.

Series can now include “groups.” Every series has a “core” grouping, but can also include sections for omnibus editions, short stories, or anything else that—while useful—might be worthwhile to separate out. You can see this on the Lord of the Rings page.

The more sophisticated structure allows for other innovations:

  • A single series can serve across all of LibraryThing’s languages, with different names in different languages.(2)
  • Series can be combined and, in combining, the editor can choose which elements to bring over from one series to another.
  • Series can now be “related” to each other, much as works can be related to works. For example, the Harry Potter Movies can be listed as an adaptation of the famous novels.
  • Every series-related action is separately tracked for examination by members and staff—much like Common Knowledge but with all the extra detail available once single strings were abandoned.

“New Series” has also advanced LibraryThing’s “LT2” redesign project. In making the new pages, Chris Holland essentially worked out LT2 code and concepts, and applied them to a single page on “LT1.” He has learned a lot about how to recast LibraryThing pages without breaking everything.

Finally, series can now be touchstoned, just like authors and works! As works use single brackets, like [War and Peace], and authors use double-brackets, like [[J. K. Rowling]], series use three brackets like [[[Twilight Saga]]].

Future Plans

The near future will see:

  • Members able to follow a series, and see and receive updates when new books are released in that series.
  • “Publisher series” transformed by allowing these work-based lists to be narrowed down to the publishers and editions that pertain to them.

Can You Help?

Series needs your help! Old data needs cleaning up, and all sorts of new data needs adding.

  • We need your help finding bugs and improving existing features so they are maximally intuitive and useful.
  • We need help establishing best practices and norms for the new possibilities. For example, now that we have true series “relationships,” I favor removing adaptations from series and making them and their own series.
  • The biggest data problem is a surfeit of non-English variants. The Common Knowledge structure hid them, but members using LibraryThings other language sites, like (French) and (Catalan), created an enormous number of series too—most of them the same as the English series. They need to be combined. For example, before I combined them, the Twilight Saga also existed as “Houkutus” (Finnish), “Saga ‘Zmierzch'” (Polish), and “Crepúsculo” (Spanish).
  • The second biggest task is reviewing the “groups” within series. Omnibus editions and selections have been automatically assigned to a separate group with 95% accuracy, but other groupings have not been attempted.
  • There is a “Needs Help” / “Looks Good” control within the Edit dropdown menu. You can use this to flag the series as needing help or give approval that the series is currently in good shape.

Check It Out

Here are some links to check out!

Here are some links of interest to people who want to dig deeper:


1. For more on Common Knowledge see our 2007 blog post.

2. Separate series should only be maintained if there is a difference between the series so great that combining them would mislead. This is one of those things we’ll have to hash out as a community.

Labels: common knowledge, new features, series


  1. MaidMeri says:

    Looks brill! Thanks. Look forward to the series alerts too.

  2. Martha Folsom says:

    I tried to enter a series for a new book in my collection..A Detective Byron Mystery (A John Byron Novel Book 4) by Bruce Robert Coffin… I tried both the common knowledge series (the old one) which is still locked and the new place series/relationships. Could not figure out how to enter the information. Tried several times but it never “took”.

  3. Debbie says:

    I can appreciate that you’ve worked hard on this and that it makes some things far better for some individuals and libraries. But I’m finding it rather frustrating. I have “series” as one of my columns on my LT “your books” page, and when cataloging a lot of books for the library, I could click on that “series” box and put in there which series and volume (ie The Baxter Family (6)) and then it will show up to patrons as The Baxter Family (6). Now, through three or four extra steps, I can add the series, which is frustrating enough, but when I look at my Your Books page, the volume # is not showing up even though I added it somewhere in the process. Can you help??? Will this eventually be editable from the “series” box like it (very conveniently) used to be??? Thanks.

  4. Michael Bernardi says:

    So how do you add a new book to a series?
    ie Knights Magica: An Urban Fantasy (Rosie O’Grady’s Paranormal Bar and Grill Book 5)
    There doesn’t appear to be any way to do this, or at least it isn’t obvious. Also you need to update the Old series documentation “How do series work?” or at least put a note that this isn’t the case anymore.

    • We’re revamping the whole site and will update Help pages in due time. For now, you can add a work to a series from the “Series and work relationships” section further down the work page. Hope this helps!

  5. Jon Crossno says:

    I think the revamp looks AWESOME! Great job! But interestingly enough, your first example (Harry Potter) brought up an unrelated question/problem. In looking at the new series page, I noticed that Harry Potter & the Cursed Child was not showing up as an owned title for me. And sure enough, when I went to investigate, I can see that my copy ( has 3157 members, but the one on the series page ( has 4537 members. So combining the 2 works is not possible for us lowly members. As staff, you should be able to do that right? If so, could you? Thanks!

  6. Motorlife says:


    Adding books that belong o a series:
    – sometimes are recognised as part of a series and sometimes not
    -supposed to be based on matching ISBN, title and author. Is there any difference between author and editor?

    Connecting a newly added book to a series has led to many weeks of frustration trying to understand the process.
    Finally cracked the code but reporting of the connection is incomplete e.g. Series: Automobile Year.
    I recently loaded our collection of these annuals, most connected to the series on entry but seven did not #s 17, 21, 22, 30, 36, 41, 44.

    I have finally connected these to their respective works of the series and this is verified by reporting in Main page, work details, book details and editions in the heading at the top of the page.
    Also in the common knowledge section on Main Page.

    But, is not reported at:
    The series column in Your Books screen.
    Home/ Stats Memes/Series page – not listed along with the books automatically connected when added.
    Series page – do not have the green tick and is not included in Top Members at the bottom of the page.

    Motorlife is currently listed as private member until we upload more of our library. Does this make a difference to the reporting?

    Is this a system problem or a process problem?

    Any help would be appreciated.


  7. dara85 says:

    Under Stats and memes the series numbers from Common Knowledge are no longer in numerical order.

  8. Ray Harrison says:

    I’ve tried to add a series title to one of our books, but I see a locked padlock icon instead of the pencil icon.

    In this blog, you say: “Adding to series can be done on either work pages or series pages. (On work pages, series have been moved to the (renamed) “Series and work relationships” section.)”

    This advice doesn’t help me. I don’t see the sections you mention.

  9. Patricia W Neal says:

    Really excited about finding the Library Thing.

  10. James Purcell says:

    You could consider 1632 as a role model, a challenge or both.

  11. Ray Harrison says:

    James, you replied: “You could consider 1632 as a role model, a challenge or both.”

    What does “1632” refer to?

  12. Alex Ford says:

    How do I fix a book that has been incorrectly associated with a series? For example, Richard Baxter’s _The Reformed Pastor_ has been published multiple times over the centuries, and as a part of several different series. My copy is associated with the incorrect one – but since it’s a locked field, cannot be made right (even though the correct series is listed when I double click the field).

  13. Kathy says:

    So I noticed a few books that are series in which are not listed as a series in the catalog. However, if I wanted to put them in a series, the editing part of the series is locked. When will that be unlocked so we can add books or create a series for books?

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