LibraryThing widgets, book jackets, yadda yadda

Tim Spalding announced today that the new LibraryThing widget for library OPAC’s will be revealed at CIL2007. From the looks of the widget image he put up, it looks like a nice, lightweight, and extremely useful tool. For public libraries. I’ve used LibraryThing a bit for collection development, but it really isn’t medical library appropriate for the most part. It will be interesting to see how LT’s widgets, Ann Arbor’s tagging, the new Hennepin County Bookspace, PennTags, and Ex Libris’ Primo work out in the long term for libraries. LT’s plan to create a tagging network puts its product a notch ahead of the others in terms of the statistical evolution of tags, but I wonder if some of the local-only tagging might not be more useful, simply in terms of local data.

I do think LT’s other widgets apply to all libraries. Now, it’s more common for OPAC’s to have RSS feeds that can be merged with Amazon book jackets, but for those of use who don’t have that capability, using a tool like LibraryThing, Listal, BlinkList, or any other book-bookmarking tool is a great choice for putting fresh content on web sites–and most importantly, the book jackets! I find that no one reads books in my library unless A) it is a soft-cover book, or B) it has a colorful book jacket. My co-worker, who used to work in a school library, was well-acquainted with this phenomenon, but having solely worked in research libraries previously, book jackets had been a non-issue for me. At best, research libraries might take the covers off and display them on a bulletin board. But, at my current library, where I am really trying to promote light(er) reading–if you can count books on Nazi medicine as light, which basically, you can’t–I find that no matter how hard I try, hardcover books without jackets just don’t leave the shelves. We’ve tried a couple of things to get those moving, including printing off images of the jackets and displaying them with the books, setting up theme displays with posters advertising the books (using book jackets, of course), and writing recommendations and displaying them next to the books.

I’ve also been sending out lists of new books to faculty every so often, and I keep getting more feedback from faculty I’ve never met before telling me how much they appreciate getting the lists (I include links to the Amazon records, and more recently, to my listings on BlinkList). I’ve seen some faculty race to the library within an hour or two of my email to clean out our books–but they didn’t when I didn’t include Amazon links. I’ve got a display up in the library now that is a collection of books, poems, essays, etc by medical students. Unsurprisingly, the ones with pretty book covers have been taken–and the hardcovers (which are just as good, people!) have been at most picked up and put back down again. But, I find the same things true of my own book choices. I base them almost solely on recommendations and the covers. This is a lesson that public libraries and school libraries learned long ago, but maybe it isn’t appropriate for academic libraries. Then again, maybe it is. One thing I know is that out of the 8,000 or so books in my library, only 23 of them had never been used. Marketing and recommendations work! And that brings me back to LT.

After obsessing about how cool it was and telling everyone I knew about it for ages, my household established a personal account at LT. Almost all the books here, except for the rare or older ones, are in LT now. We were horrified to find out that we had fewer than 1,000 books–how embarrassing! And, that was after I put in all the books from my youth in. I thought we had a fairly largish collection of ancient history/classics books, but we were put to shame by dozens of others whose collections were as large as ours, but consisted solely of books on ancient history/classics. Seeing those collections was pretty amazing–another great benefit of using LT.

Oh, and I love the Three Amigos. It’s on TV and makes writing this difficult.

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