Sites I Like – LibraryThing

One web site that should be de rigueur for cataloguers to explore is LibraryThing. Primarily designed to catalogue a personal collection of books, I have used it to track the major books I have read over the last several years (which inevitably includes a healthy proportion of library books).
LibraryThing is a web 2.0 site in that information can be shared with other users. You can peruse other people’s catalogues and check reviews. In that way, LibraryThing becomes an readers’ advisory service, similar to Amazon’s “Customers who bought this book also bought…” feature.
LibraryThing has another web 2.0 characteristic. It is partly constructed using “mash-ups”, which are services build out of other services. LibraryThing links to Amazon, the Library of Congress, and other web services to create its unique functionality.
In some ways LibraryThing is a testbed for new catalogue solutions, such as linking all editions of a book under a single record. In that way, regular print, paperback, large print, different publishers, even sound recordings, can all be found with a single search result.
In other ways, LibraryThing shows how huge the challenge is in using limited resources to solve all the problems that a catalogue is supposed to solve. Authority control (primarily for collocating all works by an author, regardless of how the author spells his/her name) is something that the LibraryThing team is working on but this also means depending on the work already done in the cataloguing community, and a lot of that work is not suitable for a mash-up environment. Co-ordination among all the stakeholders is the key to solving some of these problems, but this also means settling on new standards, which can take years to develop. In the short term, there is some hope that user-supplied data, such as folksonomies, which are subject keyword terms that users supply to catalogue records, can fill some of the gaps, but even here further research is required to determine effectiveness. Still, as a hotbed for some innovative approaches, LibraryThing is a site to watch– and to use! It’s a lot of fun!
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