Advantages of Social Cataloging
Social bookmarking has added a great deal to how information users share their online resources, however LibraryThing has taken social bookmarking and networking to an entirely new level.
LibraryThing at http://www.librarything.com/ is a social network of bibliophiles. It is a Web site to help people catalog their own books, as well as connects people with the same books, and comes up with suggestions for what to read next. Its primary feature is the automatic cataloging of books by importing data from booksellers and libraries through Z39.50 (Z39.50 is a client server protocol for searching and retrieving information from remote computer databases).
Users (informally known as thingamabrarians) can catalog personal collections, keep reading lists, and meet other users who have the same books. While it is possible to keep a library catalog private, most people choose to make their catalogs public, which makes it possible to find others with similar tastes. Thingamabrarians can browse the entire database by searching titles, authors, or tags generated by users as they enter books into their libraries.
Users of LibraryThing can import information from over 80 libraries including the Library of Congress, and the Canadian National Catalogue. Once the correct book and edition has been located, a simple click adds it to their own catalog. They can also add books from another member’s catalog or by searching on LibraryThing itself. Assuming the book is found (and most will be), each time a user adds a book, LibraryThing automatically posts an image of its front cover, its date of publication, its ISBN (International Standard Book Number), a list of other editions. It may even suggest where a person can buy new copies online. If the user desires, they can add other information, including tags, a star rating, a Dewey decimal number, the date they acquired the book, the day they started reading, and the date they finished reading it. Users can add comments to the database and even post reviews. If the correct book or edition is not available in the available databases, users can add it manually or edit the record later.
Although LibraryThing provides cataloging data from the Library of Congress, it encourages its users to tag the books included in their collective collections. LibraryThing, like many other folksonomy applications, incorporates a tag cloud into the “Social Information” page created for each book. The tag cloud enlarges the tags visually when they constitute a high percentage of use.
When a book is tagged, you can view when other users or books use that tag. “Members with your books” shows the 50 most similar libraries from other members. When viewing another member’s profile or library, the system shows how many (and which) books you share with that other member. If desired, you can leave a (public or private) comment on their profile. You can also add the member as a friend, to your private watch list, or as an interesting library.
The LibraryThing Web site does not use advertising, but receives referral fees from online bookstores that supply book cover images. Individual users can sign up for free and register up to 200 books. Beyond that limit and/or for commercial or group use, a subscription fee is charged. You can browse for free can post up to 200 books free of charge. You can also access your virtual library from my cell phone while standing in a bookshop by pointing your cell phone’s browser to <http://www.librarything.com/m>. Beyond that, you have to pay either $10 for a yearly membership or $25 for a lifetime account.
Danbury Public Library, Danbury, Connecticut was the first library to add the LibraryThing widgets to its catalog. The LibraryThing data is integrated almost seamlessly into the record display. Tags and the tag browsers bring the cataloging efforts of LibraryThing’s thousands of users into the local OPAC (online public access catalog). Users merely click on a tag associated with a book and the tag browser opens and provides a list of all the other books in the library with that same tag. The tag browser also provides a tag search engine, which has created an entirely new way to navigate our catalog.
Follow the link to a biography of Benjamin Franklin in the Danbury Library <http://cat.danburylibrary.org/record=1263103>. Notice the LibraryThing tag cloud at the end of the record. It provides more links to related OPAC resources than the traditional Library of Congress or Sears Subject Headings.
Using LibraryThing.com, readers, authors, librarians, and researchers can now multiply their resources by sharing libraries and network with those with similar interests and information needs.