Saturday, 17 July 2010

LibraryThing (not a very original title)

Exploring the LibraryThing was the most interesting and exciting experience. I enjoyed it thoroughly. At some point, opening link after link, those recommended by the 23Thing team and many, many others, reminded me of Paul the Octopus (remember the recently finished World Cup?) - so many tentacles and something new along and at the end of each one.
I liked the statistics (Zeitgeist) and the LibraryThing recommendations. I learned that the most popular Polish writer (in English translations ) was Stanislaw Lem, predominantly the Sci-Fi writer, who created, among others, the famous Solaris. I was "told" what to read if my favourite (recently) book was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (everybody should read it, it is great! - that is my private recommendation). I have also discovered a few titles which I would really like to read, e.g. "This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All" by Marilyn Johnson (one of the Recent Favourites).

I am happy to sign my name with both hands under the list of all the benefits which the LibraryThing may bring to its users. How easy it is, how cheap, how convenient for small libraries, especially today when authorities are talking about the possibility of volunteers running local libraries - no need to know MARC 21 or AACR
But... Yes, there is a but, or two of them. They appear mostly when private collections are considered. The first concern was would I be able to find a particular book even if it had the most comprehensive bibliographic record, the most beautiful cover picture and all the possible tags attached to it on the LibraryThing on My Library list if in my home collection books will not be kept in a particular shelf order. What's the use of knowing what I have if I do not know where I have it? Exploring the Thing I have found that I am able to add my own classmark or location where a particular book may be found. A note, something like "Under the bed in the spare room" or "In the bathroom for quick reference", may be placed in an extra column "Comments" added to the Display Styles. In a private collection however, with three or four (or more) people using it without library tickets and no librarian in charge, books may not always be returned to places where they were taken from. Still it might be good to know what we have collected for years (a bit like the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in The Shadow of the Wind) and perhaps to refresh not just one's memory but also their collection.

In one of the recommended articles I found a comment that LibraryThing reflects people's preferences in terms of what do they read or have in their libraries. Yes, it is true but only of these people who use this Thing. Those who have big and most possibly very interesting private collections would probably rather read books than sit in front of a computer and catalogue them on the LibraryThing. Sorry! This has probably been too sarcastic.

Nevertheless I like the LibraryThing, and might use it myself for cataloguing my private shelf contents in future. In future - because it will be rather time consuming and a physically laborious task (imagine - all these books will have to go off the shelves and then to go back, possibly in a more tidy order). Probably just the right job for a rainy summer (which we don't have this year), long winter evenings (which are not here yet) or for boring days of early retirement (which is not what the government plans for us). It would be interesting to find out what really sits on all these shelves and in cupboards. Cataloguing LPs, videos, CDs and CD-ROMs might be a separate project. I always say that there is no need to be afraid of being redundant when you are a librarian, even for those who are not professional.

P.S. I tried to search other sources (Search Elsewhere) to catalogue books in a foreign language. Unfortunately the libraries listed as available on the site were not responding. I will then have an extra job with manual cataloguing. But after all it is what I like the most of all the library jobs.

P.S. 2. On the list of local book stores and libraries for Cambridge I noticed the Galloway and Porter shop, which sadly does not exist any more.

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