Archive for the ‘new features’ Category

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Introducing Syndetics Unbound

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Short Version

Today we’re going public with a new product for libraries, jointly developed by LibraryThing and ProQuest. It’s called Syndetics Unbound, and it makes library catalogs better, with catalog enrichments that provide information about each item, and jumping-off points for exploring the catalog.

To see it in action, check out the Hartford Public Library in Hartford, CT. Here are some sample links:

We’ve also got a press release and a nifty marketing site.

UPDATE: Webinars Every Week!

We’re now having weekly webinars, in which you can learn all about Syndetics Unbound, and ask us questions. Visit ProQuest’s WebEx portal to see the schedule and sign up!

Long Version

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The Basic Idea

Syndetics Unbound aims to make patrons happier and increase circulation. It works by enhancing discovery within your OPAC, giving patrons useful information about books, movies, music, and video games, and helping them find other things they like. This means adding elements like cover images, summaries, recommendations, series, tags, and both professional and user reviews.

In one sense, Syndetics Unbound combines products—the ProQuest product Syndetics Plus and the LibraryThing products LibraryThing for Libraries and Book Display Widgets. In a more important sense, however, it leaps forward from these products to something new, simple, and powerful. New elements were invented. Static elements have become newly dynamic. Buttons provide deep-dives into your library’s collection. And—we think—everything looks better than anything Syndetics or LibraryThing have done before! (That’s one of only two exclamation points in this blog post, so we mean it.)

Simplicity

Syndetics Unbound is a complete and unified solution, not a menu of options spread across one or even multiple vendors.

This simplicity starts with the design, which is made to look good out of the box, already configured for your OPAC and look.

The installation requirements for Syndetics Unbound are minimal. If you already have Syndetics Plus or LibraryThing for Libraries, you’re all set. If you’ve never been a customer, you only need to add a line of HTML to your OPAC, and to upload your holdings.

Although it’s simple, we didn’t neglect options. Libraries can reorder elements, or drop them entirely. We expect libraries will pick and choose, and evaluate elements according to patron needs, or feedback from our detailed usage stats. Libraries can also tweak the look and feel with custom CSS stylesheets.

And simplicity is cheap. To assemble a not-quite-equivalent bundle from ProQuest’s and LibraryThing’s separate offerings would cost far more. We want everyone who has Syndetics Unbound to have it in its full glory.

Comprehensiveness and Enrichments

Syndetics Unbound enriches your catalog with some sixteen enrichments, but the number is less important than the options they encompass. These include both professional and user-generated content, information about the item you’re looking at, and jumping-off points to explore similar items.

Quick descriptions of the enrichments:

enrichment-screenshots_0000_1-cover-images
Boilterplate covers for items without covers.

Premium Cover Service. Syndetics offers the most comprehensive cover database in existence for libraries—over 25 million full-color cover images for books, videos, DVDs, and CDs, with thousands of new covers added every week.

For Syndetics Unbound, we added boilerplate covers for items that don’t have a cover, which include the title, author, and media type.

Summaries. Over 18 million essential summaries and annotations, so patrons know what the book’s about.

About the Author. This section includes the author biography and a small shelf of other items by the author. The section is also adorned by a small author photo—a first in the catalog, although familiar elsewhere on the web.

Look Inside. Includes three previous Syndetics enrichments—first chapters or excerpts, table of contents and large-size covers—newly presented as a “peek inside the book” feature.

Series. Shows a book’s series, including reading order. If the library is missing part of the series, those covers are shown but grayed out.

You May Also Like. Provides sharp, on-the-spot readers advisory in your catalog, with the option to browse a larger world of suggestions, drawn from LibraryThing members and big-data algorithms. In this and other enrichments, Syndetics Unbound only recommends items that your library owns.

The Syndetics Unbound recommendations cover far more of your collection than any similar service. For example, statistics from the Hartford Public Library show this feature on 88% of items viewed.

Professional Reviews includes more than 5.4 million reviews from Library Journal, School Library Journal, New York Times, The Guardian, The Horn Book, BookList, BookSeller + Publisher Magazine, Choice, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus. A la carte review sources include Voice of Youth Advocates: VOYA, Doody’s Medical Reviews and Quill and Quire.

Reader Reviews includes more than 1.5 million vetted, reader reviews from LibraryThing members. It also allows patrons and librarians to add their own ratings and reviews, right in your catalog, and then showcase them on a library’s home page and social media.

Also Available As helps patrons find other available formats and versions of a title in your collection, including paper, audio, ebook, and translations.

enrichment-screenshots_0010_10-tags
Exploring the tag system

Tags rethinks LibraryThing’s celebrated tag clouds—redesigning them toward simplicity and consistency, and away from the “ransom note” look of most clouds. As data, tags are based on over 131 million tags created by LibraryThing members, and hand-vetted by our staff librarians for quality. A new exploration interface allows patrons to explore what LibraryThing calls “tag mashes”—finding books by combinations of tags—in a simple faceted way.

I’m going to be blogging about the redesign of tag clouds in the near future. Considering dozens of designs, we decided on a clean break with the past. (I expect it will get some reactions.)

Book Profile is a newly dynamic version of what Bowker has done for years—analyzing thousands of new works of fiction, short-story collections, biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs annually. Now every term is clickable, and patrons can search and browse over one million profiles.

enrichment-screenshots_0012_12-reading-level
Explore Reading Levels

Reading Level is a newly dynamic way to see and explore other books in the same age and grade range. Reading Level also includes Metametrics Lexile® Framework for Reading. Click the “more” button to get a new, super-powered reading-level explorer. This is one my favorite features! (Second and last exclamation point.)

Awards highlights the awards a title has won, and helps patrons find highly-awarded books in your collection. Includes biggies like the National Book Award and the Booker Prize, but also smaller awards like the Bram Stoker Award and Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Book Award.

Browse Shelf gives your patrons the context and serendipity of browsing a physical shelf, using your call numbers. Includes a mini shelf-browser that sits on your detail pages, and a full-screen version, launched from the detail page.

Video and Music adds summaries and other information for more than four million video and music titles including annotations, performers, track listings, release dates, genres, keywords, and themes.

Video Games provides game descriptions, ESRB ratings, star ratings, system requirements, and even screenshots.

Book Display Widgets. Finally, Syndetics Unbound isn’t limited to the catalog, but includes the LibraryThing product Book Display Widgets—virtual book displays that go on your library’s homepage, blog, LibGuides, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or even in email newsletters. Display Widgets can be filled with preset content, such as popular titles, new titles, DVDs, journals, series, awards, tags, and more. Or you point them at a web page, RSS feed, or list of ISBNs, UPCs, or ISSNs. If your data is dynamic, the widget updates automatically.

Here’s a page of Book Display Widget examples.

Find out More

Made it this far? You really need to see Syndetics Unbound in action.

Check it Out. Again, here are some sample links of Syndetics Unbound at Hartford Public Library in Hartford, CT: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Faithful Place by Tana French.

Webinars. We hold webinars every Tuesday and walk you through the different elements and answer questions. To sign up for a webinar, visit this Webex page and search for “Syndetics Unbound.”

Interested in Syndetics Unbound at your library? Go here to contact a representative at ProQuest. Or read more about at the Syndetics Unbound website. Or email us at ltflsupport@librarything.com and we’ll help you find the right person or resource.

Labels: librarything for libraries, new feature, new features, new product

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

NEW: Annotations for Book Display Widgets

Our Book Display Widgets is getting adopted by more and more libraries, and we’re busy making it better and better. Last week we introduced Easy Share. This week we’re rolling out another improvement—Annotations!

Book Display Widgets is the ultimate tool for libraries to create automatic or hand-picked virtual book displays for their home page, blog, Facebook or elsewhere. Annotations allows libraries to add explanations for their picks.

Station Eleven

Some Ways to Use Annotations

1. Explain Staff Picks right on your homepage.
Column McCann
2. Let students know if a book is reserved for a particular class.
Semiotics
3. Add context for special collections displays.
Blueberries for Sal

How it Works

Check out the LibraryThing for Libraries Wiki for instructions on how to add Annotations to your Book Display Widgets. It’s pretty easy.

Interested?

Watch a quick screencast explaining Book Display Widgets and how you can use them.

Find out more about LibraryThing for Libraries and Book Display Widgets. And sign up for a free trial of either by contacting ltflsupport@librarything.com.

Labels: Book Display Widgets, librarything for libraries, new feature, new features, widgets

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

NEW: Easy Share for Book Display Widgets

LibraryThing for Libraries is pleased to announce an update to our popular Book Display Widgets.

Introducing “Easy Share.” Easy Share is a tool for putting beautiful book displays on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, email newsletters and elsewhere. It works by turning our dynamic, moving widgets into shareable images, optimized for the service you’re going to use them on.

Why would I want an image of a widget?

Dynamic widgets require JavaScript. This works great on sites you control, like a library’s blog or home page. But many sites, including some of the most important ones, don’t allow JavaScript. Easy Share bridges that gap, allowing you to post your widgets wherever a photo or other image can go—everywhere from Facebook to your email newsletters.

How do I find Easy Share?

To use Easy Share, move your cursor over a Book Display Widget. A camera icon will appear in the lower right corner of the widget. Click on that to open up the Easy Share box.

How can I share my widgets?

You can share your widget in three ways:

  1. Download. Download an image of your widget. After selecting a size, click the “down” arrow to download the image. Each image is labeled with the name of your widget, so you can find it easily on your computer. Upload this image to Facebook or wherever else you want it to go.
  2. Link. Get a link (URL) to the image. Select the size you want, then click the link icon to get a link to copy into whatever social media site you want.
  3. Dynamic. “Dynamic” images change over time, so you can place a “static” image somewhere and have it change as your collection changes. To get a dynamic image, go to the edit page for a widget. Use the link there to embed this image into your website or blog. Dynamic widgets update whenever your widget updates. Depending on users’ browser “caching” settings, changes may or may not happen immediately. But it will change over time.

You can also download or grab a link to a image of your widget from the widget edit page. Under the preview section, click “Take Screenshot.” You can see our blog post about that feature here.

Check out the LibraryThing for Libraries Wiki for more instructions.

Interested?

Find out more about LibraryThing for Libraries and Book Display Widgets. And sign up for a free trial of either by contacting ltflsupport@librarything.com.

Labels: Book Display Widgets, new feature, new features, widgets

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Show off your reviews in Facebook

Our new LTFL Reviews Facebook Pagetab feature lets you display recent reviews that have been written in your catalog right in Facebook—where your patrons are. This is a free update to any library that subscribes to our Reviews Enhancement. Make the most out of the reviews your patrons are writing and proudly show them off!

You can set it to show all recent reviews, or filter by category—show just the “staff picks” or “back to school” category you might have set up.

LibraryThing for Libraries Reviews Enhancement is a great addition to your library catalog—letting patrons rate and review right within your OPAC. You can also share reviews with hundreds of other libraries that use the service, as well as draw from over a million hand-vetted user reviews written by LibraryThing.com members.

The Reviews Facebook Pagetab feature dovetails nicely with the last feature we added: social media integration—allowing patrons to sign in with and post their reviews to Facebook and Twitter.

More: Reviews Blog Widget

a reviews blog widget

While we’re on the subject of showing off reviews, the Reviews Enhancement also comes with a reviews blog widget, which lets you display new reviews anywhere (not just on Facebook!). Try adding a widget to your library’s homepage or blog to highlight the activity in your catalog. See for example the homepage of the Cass District Library, the blog of City of Hayward Public Library, or how the City of Port Phillip Library shows off “recent reviews from our catalogue.” Like the Facebook Pagetab, this feature also comes free with a subscription to the Reviews Enhancement!

Instructions on creating reviews widgets are here.

How to get Reviews in Facebook

If your library currently subscribes to the Reviews Enhancement, it’s quite easy to bring reviews into Facebook. Instructions to get started are here.

If you don’t yet subscribe to Reviews, just let me know if you’d be interested in a free trial! (email abby@librarything.com).

Labels: book reviews, facebook, librarything for libraries, ltfl, LTFL Reviews, new features, reviews, social media, social networking

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

BookPsychic gets better

Since the release of BookPsychic, LibraryThing’s first-of-its-kind recommendation service for library patrons, we’ve received a lot of feedback, and implemented four major changes.

Authors you’ve read. Some reviewers found BookPsychic recommended too many books by authors they had already read. Others thanked us for a useful way to discover backlist titles by authors they loved. The issue is basic. While BookPsychic, like LibraryThing, tends to “recommend down”—from more popular to more obscure books by an author—it certainly does recommend books by authors you rate.

Instead of establishing a new rule, like “no recommendations for authors you rate,” we decided to treat this as a display issue. Same-author recommendations should be there, but they should be clearly separated somehow.

To implement this we came up with a recommendation section for “Recommendations by authors you have rated” (seen at right). So the high-volume Danielle Steel reader can stop dealing with so many books you already know about, but the teenager who recently finished The Lord of the Rings can discover The Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin.

We also push same-author books back somewhat in the genre browsing. You’ll see them, but fewer of them.

Search. BookPsychic was designed as a recommendation system integrated into your OPAC, not an OPAC itself. So the first version passed you back into the OPAC when you wanted to search. But some reviewers found this clunky, and wanted a quick way to search for books to rate.

So we added a search box. It’s simple to use and keeps you in BookPsychic. You can rate items right from the results.

Other authors. Together with the search box, we added a back-of-book button for “more by this author.” It’s a handy way to give Steel or Tolkien a dozen thumbs up.

Coverage. BookPsychic’s coverage continues to improve, with most libraries seeing 55-75% of their ISBNs falling into one or more of its preset genres. A higher percent can be recommended, and everything can be rated.

The system now also picks up non-ISBN items in your library collection, and we’ve added a new genre for “Art and Design.” We’re eager to develop more genres, as wanted.

Speed. It’s faster!

Labels: BookPsychic, new features, recommendations

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Publishers: How to take advantage of LibraryThing for Publishers

I’ve made a five-minute screencast explaining how publishers can join the newly-announced LibraryThing for Publishers.

Email tim@librarything.com with questions.

Labels: LibraryThing for Publishers, new feature, new features

Monday, July 20th, 2009

LTFL: Non-ISBN Matching

Short Story. We’ve been going through so many big changes at LibraryThing lately that we let a pretty substantial improvement go by without giving it the fanfare it deserves: the LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) Cataloging Enhancements now pick up many non-ISBN items. All LibraryThing for Libraries libraries will see better coverage (5-15%), and academic libraries with older materials should be especially pleased:

Some examples:


The coolest thing about the LibraryThing office: Need a photo of an old book? Grab iphone, swivel chair 180 degrees and shoot. Second coolest thing: The only hot Web 2.0 company with a 1774 edition of Terence.

Long Story. Our enhancements usually run on the basis of the ISBN. ISBNs are easy to pick out of the HTML without knowing the structure of the page ( /[0-9Xx]{10,13}/*, if you speak regular expressions*), and most books have them, so they’re our primary way of knowing what content to load for a particular page.

However, as a part of our reviews enhancement, we developed a JavaScript library called the LibraryThing Connector that, among other things, screen-scrapes the title and author of the book out of the HTML. This is what allows our reviews to work on any item a library owns, whether or not it is in LibraryThing or has an ISBN. It’s tricky stuff, because it requires specific code for every type of library software that we provide reviews for.

To get title-matching therefore, we take the title and author extracted by the Connector and feed it to our own “What Work” fuzzy matching API. Of course, this method is far from foolproof, so we err on the side of caution, only loading enhancement data if we’ve got a strong match on both the title and the author. We haven’t seen any false positives yet, but even with being pretty strict about matching, based on real world stats, we’re able to provide around 5-15% more content in the catalog. Academic libraries will get more of a boost out of this, because they tend to have a lot more non-ISBN items than public libraries.

We did this because it’s fun and useful and kind of magic, but more importantly because we want to constantly improve our products. LibraryThing for Libraries is a subscription service. Every year when it is time for a library to renew with us, we want it to be clear that they’re getting something better from us than they were a year ago, and that even better things are in store for the future. It’s more fun and challenging for us that way, but it’s also something we know works pretty well as a business strategy too.

In my mind a big reason why LibraryThing.com has succeeded is that a membership comes with an expectation of improvement. We don’t call a membership an investment, but you get to expect that you will be able to do more and better and cooler things with LibraryThing over time, and that it will become more valuable to you. As a result of this, our members become deeply involved in the site and how it works, and if a LibraryThing membership is a great investment, members end up making an even greater investment of their knowledge and enthusiasm right back. It’s a great thing to be a part of, so I hope it’s a philosophy we can keep bringing to the library world as well. — Casey

*Pace Casey, who wrote this post, ISBNs are/([0-9]{9}[0-9X}|97[89][0-9]{10})/i !

Labels: librarything for libraries, ltfl, new features

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

LibraryThing for Libraries at ALA: new features and hungry rhinos

Are you ready for this?

Tim and I will be at the American Library Association’s annual conference this year. We have new, new LTFL features to show off. You can find us at booth 2857 in the exhibit hall.

1. New features! We’ll be demoing our new catalog enhancers – never before seen by librarians. We’ll post an announcement all about the new features in a day or two.

2. An art installation! Yeah, you’ll just have to wait and see it. I can’t even describe it, other than to say that it takes away ennui.

3. More rhinos! Tim and I are both flying to Chicago with an inflatable rhino in our luggage. We plan on playing “Toss the Rhino”, and perhaps if we are feeling extra daring, “Pass the Rhinos“.

(Thanks to Brixton for the masticating rhino photo. The rhino tossing one’s mine. That’s Tim and Casey putting some English on the rhino.)

Labels: librarything for libraries, ltfl, new feature, new features, rhinos, Tim

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

New API: What work?

I’ve added a small, but nifty new API that provides a sure-fire way of connecting any site’s book data to LibraryThing.

The “What work?” API takes an ISBN and/or the book title and author and returns the LibraryThing work number, with link URL in XML.

It’s a very forgiving algorithm—these all lead to my wife’s The Mermaids Singing.

In sum, if you can’t connect your data to LibraryThing now, you aren’t trying!

If there’s interest, I can add a JSON version.


*You need to provide either an ISBN (ISBN10 or 13; with dashes or not) or a title and author. Authors can be in last-first (preferred) or first-last (fine). You can omit the author and tack it onto the title, eg., “Huckleberry Finn / Twain, Mark.” It’s very forgiving about punctuation, capitalization and so forth. It doesn’t make wild guesses, but it makes sensible ones.

Labels: apis, new features

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Introducing Reviews for LibraryThing for Libraries!

We’ve just released a new feature for LibraryThing for Libraries: Reviews. We’ve been working on this for months, and are itching to show it to you. (If you’re at Internet Librarian in Monterey, come by the booth for a full demonstration.)

The idea is simple:

  • Your library patrons get to review anything in your library.
  • Libraries share reviews, so a critical mass can build.
  • Implementation is absurdly simple—one short piece of JavaScript added to the catalog template. Period.

The “extras” send it into orbit:

  • It comes with 200,000 high-quality, vetted reviews from LibraryThing.
  • Your patrons get blog widgets and a Facebook application to show off their reviews—and their love for their library. Don’t get why this is great? Keep reading.

Check it out. Three libraries are currently showing reviews, together with the other LibraryThing for Libraries enhancements–similar books, tags and other editions and translations. Click on the reviews wording (see above) to launch the reviews “lightbox.”

Reviews in your catalog. The reviews wording shows up on all detail pages–not just books. You can also elect to show reviews on “search” or “list” pages. (Neither Los Gatos or High Plains have done this.)

LibraryThing for Libraries is not an “external” service. Everything happens in the catalog, not on some external site. “Reviews” works the same way. Like the rest of LTFL, it loads after the rest of the page, so it doesn’t slow it down.

Lightbox magic. Other reviews solutions have either put showing and editing reviews in an external window–kludgy and likely to trigger pop-up alerts–or shoe-horned reviews into the catalog page, mucking it up and subjecting reviews to space and style constraints.

We decided to do something different, putting reviews in a “lightbox,” like our Tag browser. This combines the best of both solutions–in-place action and a rock-solid, stylish look. Reviews are in the catalog, but they aren’t imprisoned by it.

Two-hundred thousand LibraryThing reviews. We think LibraryThing for Libraries reviews, especially with our widgets and Facebook app., are going to push patron reviewing to a new level. But the fact remains that no library project has yet managed to get patrons reviewing on the scale of an Amazon or a LibraryThing. And nothing kills people’s incentive to review than a desert–like restaurants, emptiness begets emptiness and success success.

So we’re kicking in over 200,000 LibraryThing reviews–gently vetted by LibraryThing staff.

These 200,000 reviews put LibraryThing miles ahead of our only “reviews” competitor, Chilifresh. They doesn’t release totals, but their numbers are low. Here for example are Chilifresh vs. LibraryThing for Libraries numbers for the last eight Pulitzer winners:

Pulitzer Prize winners Chilifresh LibraryThing
2008 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 1 review 24 reviews
2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy 8 reviews 199 reviews
2006 March by Geraldine Brooks 1 review 50 reviews
2005 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 0 reviews 45 reviews
2004 The Known World by Edward P. Jones 1 review 40 reviews
2003 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 1 review 120 reviews
2002 Empire Falls by Richard Russo 1 review 32 reviews
2001 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon 1 review 69 reviews
2000 Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 0 review 27 reviews

When push comes to shove, you don’t need 199 reviews. But Putlizer winners are popular books. When a popular book has 199 reviews, less popular books will have five or ten. Conversely, if Gilead and Interpreter of Maladies can’t get a review, the rare stuff definitely won’t have it.

Want to blog that table? (I wish you would. It took me forever to make.) Here’s the HTML.

My reviews at Los Gatos Public Library

Blog widgets and Facebook application. I do a lot of talking about “User Generated Content” (a horrible, dehumanizing phrase). Again and again I hit one point that–I think–Library 2.0 too often misses: User Generated Content isn’t about “getting something”–it’s about giving something.

People don’t review books to help a library, or even their community. They do it to get something back–a record of what they read and an opportunity to express themselves–and express themselves to the people they know.

This means two things. First, unlike some other systems, we made sure every member had a page–and one with a permanent link, so they could send it to friends. And second, it meant that we make sure patrons could showcase their reviews outside of their library catalog, where they “live” on the web. Both options are available from review members’ “settings” page.

Check out LibraryThing for Libraries’ “Reviews at My Library” on Facebook in the screen-shot. (The application is here, but you need to have a Facebook membership to get to it.) Here’s the blog widget in action:

More soon. I’ve got to run to our booth at Internet Librarian, but I’ll blog more soon. LibraryThing members will want to know how the two systems connect.*

*Members can opt-out of their reviews being seen in libraries–just edit your profile, although, because of caching, changes are not immediate.

Labels: book reviews, internet librarians, librarything for libraries, new features