Friday, July 29, 2011

Library Bytes: LibraryThing

I haven't written anything library-oriented in quite a while, so I thought a post on LibraryThing would be fun, especially since I finished cataloging today my entire book collection. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I have 1100 books in my apartment. I have no idea how they're all fitting in here, but somehow there's still plenty of room to walk around. If you read bklynbiblio on the actual site itself rather than through an RSS feeder, you may have noticed I have a widget that shows a rotating group of random book covers from my collection. It's sometimes fun to see what will show up.

LibraryThing (LT) is actually an amazing website. Here is my profile. You catalog your book collection, searching by title, author, ISBN, whatever. But rather than just a static database of your holdings, it connects your library with everyone else's library in there to become a social networking site where you can see how many other people own the same book as you, and what people have the similar libraries to you. Not surprisingly, my friends SC and PR both turn out to have a number of similar books as me. That said, if you think my 1100 is big, you should see theirs: PR has 3433 books and SC has 4872 books! I joined LT 2 years ago after hearing about it from one of them. SC blogs about it frequently on Shermania, but since he's an expert cataloger in the library profession, it's not surprising that he would be so into it. The social networking component goes even further though, incorporating chat rooms, book store events, and so on. I don't actually utilize all those features in it, but I do like what it comes up with at times.

Once you catalog your books, you also assign multiple subject headings or tags. Using these recurring tags, you can then determine how many books you have in that particular subject. Are you surprised to discover that my top 3 tags are "British" (454 books), "art" (431), and "19th-century" (313)? "Fiction" (306) and "Victorian" (211) come next. Cataloging your collection also allows you to discover the authors whose books you own the most. Some of this doesn't really surprise me. Agatha Christie comes in high for me at 80 books (almost all paperbacks). I put the book cover image of What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! above as part of this post because I still think this was probably one of her most clever plots. (A woman on a train watches another train pass on a parallel track, and she suddenly witnesses a murder in the window of one of the cars. When she reports it afterwards, there's no trace of a murder ever taking place.) After Christie, my top fiction authors are Anne Rice (28), Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine (27), and A.S. Byatt (16). Among my art history books, Elizabeth Prettejohn came in with 6 titles, Beauty and Art: 1750-2000 being but one of her works. I was surprised who came next: Renaissance scholar Keith Christiansen and photography historian Larry Schaaf, tied with 5 books each, followed by the work of 19th-century art historian Robert Rosenblum. If you have a book collection and you've been wanting to get it organized, give LT a try. And if you do, "friend" my library!

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