Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Library Thing: The Personal Libraries of Librarians Catalogued Online

As a reference librarian in a public library connected to many other public libraries through a shared catalog, I hardly need to buy any books myself. I borrow rather than buy. I only purchase books that I think my libraries will not buy or books I want to use regularly or books I really love. I sometimes get books as gifts, but I only keep them if I really really want them. After I have read them, most find their way in to public library collections or the library friends' book sale. So, it was interesting creating my own catalog using Library Thing . I see things about myself I had not realized.

I have created a sixty-two item catalog, which is small enough to fall in the free category. People cataloguing 200 or more books are required to pay $10 per year or $25 for a lifetime membership. My catalog, which barely gets onto a fourth page, only took me a few days to create, adding 4 or 5 books at a time when I had time. Most books were easy to enter, as Library Thing pulled the bibliographic information from Amazon. I just entered the ISBN numbers and the records popped up. I also found several of the items by entering title or author. I see now that I could have set the service to search the Library of Congress instead of Amazon; if I had, I might not have had to catalog two older books from scatch. I also edited a few of the records to complete publication data and make my title list display alphabetically; Library Thing does not know to ignore "a" and "the" when alphabetizing.

While adding the items, I also added tags. There is no authority for the tags, so I sometimes added variations to make the items more findable. My bird books got the tags "birding," "birdwatching," and "birds." I also tagged one "bird behavior." Now anyone can search my collection by tags and also search across the pool of catalogs to see what other readers own. You can easily see what are the most popular subjects in my collection by looking at my tag cloud .

While adding items, I also rated them up to five stars. Most of my books get four or five stars. I have no desire to keep anything I would assign fewer stars.

Users of the Library Thing service can add reviews to their book records, I added only two so far, as I have been writing reviews about library books I borrow more than books I own.

From each record you can see how many other people own a title. If you click on the faceless person icon over to the right above the number of owners, you can see the screen names of the other people, their ratings, and their tags for the book. I do not know what it says about me, but forty of my sixty-two books are not owned by other participants.

From looking at my collection you might think our house has few books, but it is not so. Bonnie and Laura have books, and there are books that belong to the whole family that I did not list. My library does not stand alone at home or on Library Thing.

I know of two other blogging librarians using Library Thing. Michael Stephens has tested the service. Jessamyn West has catalogued 364 of her books. If you search users for the word librarian, you get 51 screen names, but many link to accounts that have not actually entered any books. SilverLibrarian has a nice collection mixing children's and adult books.

Have you catalogued your books using Library Thing or other online service? If so, leave a comment so we can see.


Steve Oberg said...


Just saw your post about LibraryThing. I'm a librarian who has a lifetime membership and I've cataloged most of my library there. See http://www.librarything.com/catalog/stoberg

There are a little short of 800 items in there. These books represent my family library (including my wife's books, and my children's books).


Steven said...

Here's mine.