LITA 2008: What is "Social Cataloging" and Why Should You Care?

“Having games in the library strikes me as being like having bocce in the frat house.”

Speaker: Tim Spalding, Founder of LibraryThing

“I have no practical advice for you, but I have inspiration and screen shots.” Such as, images from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and book pile photo submissions.

Social cataloging does not need to be defined. LibraryThing is a good example of social cataloging, but it’s not the only resource out there like that. (LibraryThing is now larger than the Library of Congress.) Good Reads focuses more on the social aspects, and Shelfari is being revived by Amazon. There are other sites like CiteULike and Last.fm that do social cataloging of things other than books.

Social cataloging explores the socialization. LibraryThing embraces the social and the digital because there is no physical aspect (except for what you have in your own collection).

Social cataloging ladder:

  • personal cataloging – your stuff
  • exhibitionism, voyeurism – about you and your stuff
  • self expression – book pile photos, reviews
  • implicit social cataloging – tag clouds on books that incorporate data from all owners, recommendations, connect with other owners of more obscure books
  • social networking – “friends” lists, users who share your books, groups
  • sharing – book covers of different editions, author photos
  • explicit social cataloging – work-level records (any title you would agree on at a cocktail party) for both books and authors, series data
  • collaborative cataloging – building the catalogs of famous dead people, developing an open-source alternative to Dewey

Regarding why Spalding felt it necessary to pull data from libraries and not just Amazon, he says, “Once you are over the age of 30 and you are not a Philistine, you have books that Amazon is not currently selling.”

Interesting factoid about how things are tagged on LibraryThing: LGBT and GLBT tags have two completely different lists of books.

Traditional cataloging is based on the physical form of cataloging with cards. It was too difficult to change subjects or to add weight to particular subjects because you couldn’t do that with physical cards. We need to get away from this now that we have all the flexibility of digital cataloging. Digital cataloging is social cataloging.

LibraryThing users are doing about 1,000 work combinations per day! Voluntarily! Experts on book topics are the ones pulling the data together, not experts on cataloging.

LibraryThing members figured out what books are on Dr. Horrible’s shelf based on a fuzzy still from the video. And then the guy who lives in the apartment where it was filmed corrected the editions listed.

There are many non-librarians who are passionate about books and classification. People care about libraries and library data.

On the other hand, we suck. Our catalogs are fundamentally not open to the web because our pages are often session-specific and not friendly to index spiders. Worldcat.org is getting fewer visitors, whereas Dogster.com is getting more.

Library 2.0 is in danger. Libraries are concentrating on what they can do, not what they can do best. We don’t need to have blogs or pages on Facebook. “Having games in the library strikes me as being like having bocce in the frat house.”

Do not pay anyone for Library 2.0 stuff. Do it yourself. OCLC is not yourself.

Or, pay Spalding for his 2.0 enhancements (LibraryThing for Libraries).

Social cataloging is about the catalog, about what you can do right now, about passion, and about giving (not taking).

ex libris

I finally read Anne Fadiman’s book Ex Libris this weekend. It has been on my wishlist for a year and on my bookshelf for about six months. It’s a slim paperback of 162 pages, but like most non-fiction, it took me three sittings to make my way through it. Most of the essays come from her column “The Common Reader” in the Library of Congress’ publication Civilization, and they are personal stories about her experiences with books and reading.

Continue reading “ex libris”

publication pattern change

A magazine with “weekly” in the title will actually be published 52 times this year — go figure!

I heard on Marketplace this morning that the magazine US Weekly will actually be published 52 times this year. The reporter said that the magazine had made enough money from ad revenue and sales to be able to publish an issue every week this year. I was curious to see what the publication pattern history has been, so I took a look at the Library of Congress record for the magazine. It appears that from 1985-Jan 1991, the magazine was published weekly, but from Feb 1991 until now it was published bi-weekly. I expect that something about this may show up on SERIALST, eventually.

dixie chicks on the next geraldo!

It’s so beautiful outside today that I wish my campus had a campus-wide wireless network. That way, I could borrow a laptop and work on the lawn. Ahh… one can dream…

The Specious Report has written a satire of Natalie Maines’ apology. I think it is much more appropriate.

Geraldo Rivera has “volunteered” to leave Iraq after broadcasting the location of the Army troops he was quasi-embedded with, as well as their possible future movements. I thought that the Fox News Channel was the breeding ground for conservative war hawks. I had no idea that they were actually working for Saddam!

Ever since the Patriot Act was passed in Congress, librarians have been discussing what to do about patron privacy. Booksellers have also been concerned, but their situation is somewhat more complex than libraries, since they have a history of using their customer histories to provide more customized service. One bookstore owner in Washington State has decided to not follow many libraries’ leads and is retaining his customer records in full. He briefly explains why he has made this decision, despite privacy concerns surrounding the Patriot Act.

public radio is endangered

I was talking with my Dean earlier today, and she told me about a network of Christian radio stations moving in to take out National Public Radio stations by taking over their frequencies. At first I thought it couldn’t be true, much less legal, but then I found a recent New York Times article reporting on two NPR affiliate stations in Louisiana that were kicked off of the airwaves by American Family Radio resulting in a community of 95,000 people not having access to public radio (which includes local programming, unlike what AFR provides). As an on-air person at a local student-run radio station with a short broadcast range, this is disturbing to me.

“The Christian stations routed NPR in Lake Charles under a federal law that allows noncommercial broadcasters with licenses for full-power stations to push out those with weaker signals — the equivalent of the varsity team kicking the freshmen out of the gym.”

Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, Ombudsman for NPR has written a response to accusations of NPR having an agenda, liberal or otherwise, that is articulate and thoughtful.

If public radio was supposed to be an alternative, why do so many people feel excluded from those values?

Well, Congress voted yesterday. I knew they would give Dubya the power to join the “world’s worst leaders with the world’s worst weapons” but I kept hoping that more of them would hear the opposition (which is much larger and stronger than the media chooses to portray). Guess I should have known better, what with the elections being so soon.