Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Library for poor Brazilians—how to help?

A kind user sent me this inspiring October 2 LA Times story, “This Illiterate Brazilian’s Home Speaks Volumes,” about a poor Brazilian who, basically, started a library in his house.

I’d love to find somewhere to point people so they can donate. I’m sure even small donations would go a long way. If nobody official is collecting—some library association perhaps?—I’ll set up a collection page here.

There’d be nice symmetry there. LibraryThing has seen a lot of Brazilians since being profiled in two papers there.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

LibraryThing now searches thirty-one libraries

It’s official: LibraryThing has expanded to thirty-one libraries in thirteen countries.

Not only Australians and Canadians now have major collections in their countries, but also Turks, Danes, Swedes and Dutch. US collections like Yale and the University of Chicago add more scholarly heft, and a user reported that the University of California system is excellent for paperback science fiction.

In addition to the libraries, LibraryThing also works with all the Amazons—now including Amazon Japan. All the national Amazons can also be accessed using the LibraryThing/Amazon bookmarklet, which allows you to add books to your LibraryThing library while browsing on Amazon.

European diacriticals now work well, albeit with some library-specific glitches (eg., the Australian National Library strips accents out and the Royal Danish Library sends the strangest character set). But internal searches still have some diacritical problems…

More libraries

LibraryThing will continue to add libraries. Unfortunately, not all libraries present open web interfaces. Here are global and UK lists of some of the libraries that may work. Some, like the BL, use a format I haven’t designed for yet. Feel free to suggest items off the list, or other open Z39.50 libraries you know about.

Other news

  • LibraryThing will hit 325,000 books in about an hour. No, I’m not staying up for it.
  • I’ve been trying to promote the site to the mainstream media. It seems unfair that it’s been profiled in two Brazilian papers, but I can’t get the Boston Globe to pick it up. Sheesh, I should start reading the Herald.
  • I’ve been looking at similar sites, and pleased to discover LibraryThing’s user growth rate matches the hot social software site 43Things (see here, reporting 12,000 users in two months; LT did 6,000 in one month). 43Things has a bunch of employees and is bankrolled by Amazon (originally in secret).
  • LibraryThing is not bankrolled by Amazon or anyone else, nor are we going to sell our data to them. (Amazingly, I never really announced that before. You are a trusting lot.)
  • In related news, I just finished the site’s first Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. In the end, I decided against the naked-photography clause. Your pictures will be returned.

What I’m working on

  • I’m taking a breather on new libraries. Maybe users will suggest some good ones. It’s hard to know what to add sometimes. I stopped when I realized that a particular Swedish word probably meant “veterinary.” Not a top priority.
  • I’d like to add more data back into the search view. (The “little divet” that used to come up when you use the Library of Congress.)
  • I should add RSS. I’ve been promising it for ages.
  • Ditto power editing/tagging.

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Sunday, October 2nd, 2005

Interim post on multiple libraries

I’m going to blog tonight about a bunch of new features and the addition of some thirty libraries, now working well with language support. Before I do I wanted to ask if people are able to figure out the “more libraries” feature, and whether the libraries added to the experience. Do you use them? Is the user interface confusing? Do you want more ability to customize? Do you miss the little divet that used to give you the cataloging info for a book? (I do.)

So, the floor’s open for multiple-library issues…

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Friday, September 30th, 2005

LibraryThing adds 10 new libraries

LibraryThing has made another great leap forward. Until now LibraryThing drew exclusively on the Library of Congress and the five national “Amazons.”

Today ten more libraries have joined the mix:

  • United States: Boston University, The University of California system, The University of Chicago, Yale University
  • Britain: The National Library of Scotland, The London School of Economics, The National Library of Wales
  • Canada: The Canadian National Catalogue
  • Australia: The National Library of Australia
  • Denmark: Det Kongelige Bibliotek

Searching for books should also be faster, both because connections are shared between users and because you can now shift libraries when one doesn’t respond well.

It is a starter list. The US additions are a strong start. I hope Canadians, Australians and Danes will be happy seeing their national libraries included. Brits may feel the absence of Cambridge, Oxford and the British Library—the latter two are open and will be added. The French and Germans were, I confess, slighted, although the Canadian National Library has a lot of French literature. And what can I say to the Brazilians who have flocked in such numbers after LT was profiled in O Globo? I’ve looked and I will keep looking. I have an open Z39.50-based library in Portugal, but it is either down or on the blink. There are also some private universities in Brazil that are said to have open catalogs. I will find something for you!

There are a number of ramifications to the change that aren’t yet resolved:

  • Although I now have richer data and can populate additional fields, including series, language and edition, I have not yet exposed them to viewing and editing.
  • You will note that newly added books lack accents. Look on the bright side—they don’t have the wrong accents.
  • Fortunately, accents are coming. New books have a checkbox for “Update as cataloging data improves.” Keep this checked and accents will soon appear where once there was none. All I have to do is crack the obscure character set Marc records employ…

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Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

250,000 books

Cheers to all for another milestone!

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Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

How much library info is too much?

Library-expansion is another day or so off, but librarians and other interested parties are invited to weigh in on what new fields I should provide.

“MARC” records open up a world of data. I can finally parse all names correctly, add secondary authors, strip “a”s and “the”s from sorting, separate out publisher, place of publication and date of publication, and even wring automated sense from “xix, 230; ill., 25 cm.”

I don’t want to go overboard. Library records have more in them than most users need. Who but an institution needs to distinguish between “Uniform Title,” “Title Statement” and “Varying forms of Title”? Who scans their shelves confused between Dan Brown (1964–), author of the Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown (n.d.) the publisher of the 1704 tract Novum Lumen Chirurgicum vindicatum?

For starters I can dump publisher and physical info into the “publication” field. And I can put everything into a static “card catalog” field, as I currently do with Library of Congress data. But what details should I “pull out” and allow to be edited, sorted by, and displayed in catalog view?

My candidates are:

  • Secondary authors, editors and illustrators (It is likely their role will be elided, except in the cataloging field)
  • Number of pages (Arabic numeral pages only)
  • Language

If you’re not a librarian, see Understanding MARC Bibliographic for Marc’s “commonly used” fields. Then thank you librarian for knowing this kind of thing AND dealing with people who come in and ask for “that red book, you know.” Incidentally, and taking that seriously, if a book’s “variant tile” includes such wishy-washy info as the spine-title (when different from the “real” title), why doesn’t it capture the dominant cover color? User hh219 appears to be doing that; perhaps it helps when looking for something.

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Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Oxford coming up; Librarians suggest libraries

Stay tuned for Oxford University’s collection, coming on line later today or tomorrow. Then I’ll start bringing other Z39.50 libraries on fairly quickly, in order of user interest, connection speed and record parseability (I’m trying to do everything with Marc records now). Oh, and they need to be open to anyone and available all the time. The Z39.50 world is fairly new to me, but there are apparently thousands of people involved in it.

If you’re a librarian and know what the heck I’m talking about, feel free to suggest candidates. For starters I’d like to add some large US university libraries, to fall back on when the LC is slow. Oh, and I need a shoulder to cry on: Marc21 is blithering nonsense!

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Monday, September 26th, 2005

Amazon Associates!

Your complaints have been heard—Amazon gave it a thumbs up! You can now use your Amazon Associates id within a blog widget, and take back a small fraction of the $1/day all 200 or so blog widgets are making me. You don’t even need to have a paid account to run off with my haypence. That’s how generous I am.

(Frankly, I’d rather not to link to Amazon, but it’s a requirement if I use their cover image. Of course the text links go to your library or the book itself.)

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Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Better URLs for users

People were complaining that the LibraryThing URLs were too complex and it was hard to find the URL for a direct link to your collection. From now on you can use URLs like:

The catalog one will “redirect” to a more complex URL, the server rules being extremely difficult and hazardous to play with while dozens of people are on. Your URL is also listed on your profile page.

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Sunday, September 25th, 2005

LibraryThing makes the Mainstream Media, in Brazil

Special thanks to a reader of the Brazilian newspaper O Globo for forwarding me their blurb. I never managed to find it on the website, but I have the original. After spending about 2 seconds puzzling over it, rusty French and Latin at the ready, I threw it into Google:

Sunday toast For who has some familiarity with the English, access to the InterNet and thinks about fichar its library. A small farm makes success that receives the heading from a book, searchs it in the Library of the Congress of the United States, captures its fiche and plays it in the archive of the customer. is called and was created by Tim Spalding, an American pc hacker with the feet in the classic culture. It is in the version Beta (with the risks that this means) and leaves favour for who wants to catalogue up to 200 books. For bigger libraries, it charges USS 10 for the limitless use of the instrument. In less of one month, librarything joined four a thousand users who ficharam 177 a thousand books. It gained news article in the “The Guardian” and the forecast of that somebody goes to gain money with this business. If it will not be Spalding, will be another person. The Library of the Congress is a colossus. Its catalogue has 28 book million in 470 languages. For example: 18 headings of Fernando Gabeira. (who to want to sapear, an acknowledgment: the instrument of not accepted search accents nor cedilhas.)

This is great, if largely from Brown’s Guardian piece. My only fear is that ten Brazilians will try to start their own LibraryThing, looking for that money. (The money ain’t happening, people. It’s nice not to feel guilty about searching for freelance, but this is not making me rich. Then again, I might be rich if I were in Brazil.)

One question: At least for me the “instrument” seems to work with “search accents and cedillas” (that part ought to be “the search engine does not accept accents or cedillas,” instrumento de busca não aceita acentos nem cedilhas). Am I the only one?

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