On Wednesday, March 15, the two millionth book was cataloged in the LibraryThing. Tim Spalding launched the site on August 29, 2005, and since then it’s grown to include over 28,000 users.
LibraryThing users pull book data from libraries around the world and online bookstores like Amazon to create a catalog of their personal collection. They can tag the books using their own terms, which can be combined with similar terms from other users, thus creating a site-wide folksonomy.
In addition to categorizing books with your own terms, the tags are also useful for locating them. For example, one user has tagged her books with a code for the box that they are in, and others use tags to indicate the room or shelf in which the book is located.
One of the benefits of keeping track of your personal library is knowing that you already own a copy of a book. This is particularly useful if your collection is larger than a few hundred titles or you keep some of your books packed away in boxes. Several times I have almost bought a second copy, but a quick search of my catalog on LibraryThing reminded me that I had the book already.
Every time I turn around, it seems that Spalding has added some new feature to the site. He is taking his cues from existing library catalog structures, but also adding in features and customizations that are outside of the library catalog box. As a librarian, I am eager to see how LibraryThing will influence traditional library catalog systems. I have heard rumors of a tagging feature being added to a future upgrade of one of the major integrated library systems.
Here are a few fun facts about LibraryThing (from the LibraryThing blog):
- According to the American Library Association, LibraryThing is 634,375 volumes away from being the 100th largest library in the United States.
- OCLC, the world’s largest library consortium, has 1 billion records in its database. But the OCLC adds only 8,640 books/day, whereas LibraryThing adds 10,152 books/day. This means that LibraryThing will come out ahead in 3815.
- LibraryThing has more than twice as many books by J. K. Rowling as Thomas Jefferson gave to the Library of Congress after the British destroyed the first collection by fire. There’s a joke in here somewhere.