What can we learn from LibraryThing?

There are a number of online services where you can create your own personal catalogue of books you own, have read, want to read etc. These lists can then be enriched with tags and book reviews all of which can lead to providing you with book recommendations or the ability to see which of your friends have the same taste in books and other great services.

When our lovely colleague Trudi left for maternity leave, the team complied a list of childhood favourite reads. I used this list of 32 books to create a collection in LibraryThing, Shelfari and goodreads with the hope to explore these services further.

I particularly like the visual display of the book covers across all the services and could see how this could be a great way to marketing our own book stock, especially new books, ebooks etc. Its was interesting to note that the recent change to the MyiLibrary site echoed this trend.

As well as providing a nice visual display the services allowed you to embed these on webpapges and blogs, which would then be automatically updated when new content was added. This made me wonder about the value of a reading list which students could embed in their own online study environment. I know of some work done by the Telstar project which looks at integrating references into a learning environment, more details available on the Telstar project page.

All of the services provided a range of book covers to choose from which I enjoyed from a nostalgic view point in terms of choosing the covers that I remembered from my childhood. It did however make me wonder if there was a value in a service that allowed students to select the correct cover for the books they have got out on loan in order they have a visual check when trying to track that book if they misplaced it on their shelves or elsewhere.

In creating this small collection each of the services was able to augment the data and quickly provide alternative views, for example Library Thing were able to provide an author gallery, in Goodreads I was instantly directed to reviews about the books. The services also provide recommendations for further reading. Libraries could also augment the data in their catalogues with activity data which can potentially leadĀ  to providing a recommender service. The University of Huddersfield is a great example of a library catalgoue providing a number of enriched services such as virtual shelf browser, people who borrowed this book borrowed this etc. Dave Pattern has written about this extensively and recomend taking a look at his blog, Self-Plagiarism is Style.


Personally the real value in these online book services is they are built by the community of users and this is where I think there is potential for libraries. I think greater engagement between the library and its borrowers, further collaboration between the two and more of an understanding of how library materialsĀ are used and collected could provide the library with opportunites for developing its services further