library thing for libraries

During the same Hot Topics Discussion mentioned below I also heard a presentation about the implementation and use of LibraryThing at a public library by Kate Sheehan, Coordinator of Library Automation at the Danbury Public Library. Sheehan described how the library has integrated LibraryThing, a site which allows users to create bibliographies, plus rate and reviews books. The idea is that this added content will provide library users with more context when it comes to deciding what to check out next.

Similar to the recommendations on, LibraryThing allows users to see what other users have been reading, and if they liked it or no. The advantage of this system is that actual human beings (as opposed to algorithms) are providing the context and making connections. If you ever bought something on for a friend on a subject that does not interest you, the site will forever continue suggesting things on this subject. By contrast users of LibraryThing can actually help you choose related material that might interest you.

Sheehan also described this partnership as an addition that can make the OPAC “fun.” She found that she and others at the library could know be found “browsing” the catalog and spending long periods of time doing so. One interesting review can open up hundreds of possibilities and before long your list of “to read books” could make you wish you had more time to read.

In terms of implementations Sheehan said its been amazingly easy and the process was completed in a very short amount of time. Once up an running, each month the library provides LibraryThing with a list of all new additions by ISBN, which LibraryThing will then provide information for. Once a year the library gathers information on weeded books and LibraryThing is again notified of these changes.

The library’s catalog has not become part of LibraryThing, instead it gathers information available at the site. When opening the record of a particular book, in addition to the expected information you will also find suggestions for similar books, and a tag cloud of related subjects. Clicking on one of these tags will take you to more suggestions of material tagged with this category, as well as related categories. Here is an example of one of these records.

One issues that particularly caught my attention is that the Danbury library patrons are not necessarily the ones providing the rating and reviews (unless they happen to have an account with LibraryThing). I wonder how different these reviews and tag clouds might turn out if it were only the patrons providing input.

Kate Sheehan is the author behind the Loose Cannon Librarian blog.