A Look at LibraryThing

By , September 27, 2010 6:08 pm

by Philippe Cloutier

It wasn’t long ago that I was a library school student, exploring new concepts, developing the old and discovering the technologies and structures of an information world. The rapid change of our relationship with data and the constant influx of social tools makes being a librarian a balancing act. We have to stay on top of the progression of our profession, internally and externally.

While we cast our net to catch movements in librarydom, items are missed. For me, LibraryThing got lost in the shuffle of school work, library work and looking for work. LibrayThing was something I eventually checked out, and my assumptions about its purpose varied. Turns out LibraryThing is functionally awesome.

LibraryThing’s basic premise is that it’s a catalog for your collection. Its extended premise allows you to share your catalog, discover friends and other’s catalogs, review and rate items and get suggestions based on your reviews/ratings. Moreover, it allows you to create a community around your reading habits/catalog, create groups and forums and keep you in touch with a feature called “LibraryThing Local”: a social network for members, bookstores, libraries and even events.

I intend on cataloging my books (this doesn’t mean MARC, but simply keying in the title and taking Amazon or other databases’ information and selecting it), connecting with others of similar taste and looking up friends in the area and perusing their collection so that I may pilfer/borrow their books.

The fun doesn’t end here. There is an organization set-up for LibraryThing that really intrigues me. On the public library side it touts, “add tag-based browsing, book recommendations, ratings, reviews and more to your OPAC, by integrating with LibraryThing and its high-quality book data.” On the private library side, this service could be redundant if you have a catalog, if not, then it could be a fantastic option.

The more interesting prospect though, for private libraries, is the chance to share. Many private libraries use OCLC but many don’t. I’m not sure if it’s the cost, the time, etc. but LibraryThing could be an inexpensive way to share collections locally, leading to savings on collection development. It’s a concept that needs to be more thoroughly vetted, as the search feature seems limited, but its implications immense.

There are free account options, and, of course, memberships for power-users and organizations. Privacy options are readily available. You don’t even need to associate LibraryThing with an e-mail. At this point, I’m out of excuses for avoiding LibraryThing further.

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