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Get Your LibraryThing On

Magazine article Online

Get Your LibraryThing On

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I have moved twice in the past 3 years. Both times, the movers almost walked off the job when they saw how many boxes of books I had (it appeared to be approximately half of all my stuff). Not only do I own most of the books I've ever read, I even managed to save two copies of one of my college textbooks, Modern Physics and Anti-Physics (aka Physics for Hippies). Now that I've settled in to what I hope will be my long-term home, I'm finally unpacking all those boxes of books, boggled at the thought of organizing them. Yes, I'm a librarian and should know this, but no, I can barely grasp where to start. What do I need? A card catalog-more accurately, an online private access catalog!

This situation gave me a good reason to try out LibraryThing (LT) [], the love child of Melvyl Dewey and Web 2.0. At its most basic, it enables users to build their own Web-based OPAC, using bibliographic records from, the Library of Congress, and more than 40 other major libraries and consortia. If you're wondering-no, it doesn't include WorldCat.

It's fairly easy to add titles to your online collection: You can make your collection either private or public. You can add your own tags, edit any of the bibliographic fields, and even note what date you purchased the book, when you started reading it, and when you finished. You can import your Wish List from (that's where I store my "gee, that sounds interesting" book titles). I now have a new tag in my catalog: "something else to read." You can sort your catalog by author, title, tag, publication date, or even by how many other LibraryThing users also own the book.

LibraryThing has tools to generate what must be the geekiest stats you can imagine from a shared catalog. You can see the average publication date of your collection. You can see a title's book obscurity number, which measures how many other people own the same books that you do. The lower your number, the more obscure your collection. You can even see the 50 lowest-rated authors within LibraryThing. (I checked; I'm not there. Whew!)

Paid personal accounts cost $10 for a year or $25 for a life-time; for-profit organizations pay $50 per year to catalog 5,000 books. Tim Spalding, founder of LibraryThing, is considering developing a professional version of LibraryThing for institutional libraries.

Why, you ask, would information professionals be interested in a service that is clearly aimed at the home bibliophile? …

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