Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Library Thing and Thingamabrarians

On one of my email listserves lately, there's been a lot of talk about a site called Shelfari, where you can upload a catalog of your books and share your list with friends or with others who may have similar reading tastes. One of the reasons it's been talked about so much, however, is that glitches ensued when some folks tried to add friends to their group and the site instead emailed everyone in their address book.

I had never heard of Shelfari until then, but I did know about Library Thing. First let me say I've never invited anyone to join my group on Library Thing, so I don't know whether glitches ensue there, too. But I did learn about it in a library class last year, so I feel pretty good about the site's reputation.

I believe Library Thing was started by a librarian, Tim Spalding. If you're old enough, you may remember how you had to look up books by subject headings in the card catalog. (Remember the friendly admonitions to "see" or "see also" when you weren't using the right term?) Spalding wanted readers to be able to assign their own subjects, or "tags," for their books. Thousands of folks have taken him up on it. They are informally called thingamabrarians. Don't you love that word? It's the main reason I decided to do this post.

There are a number of things you can do in Library Thing. You can add your own book collection to the site, if you want to. You can add a snippet of info about each one, and Library Thing will fill in the rest. You can give your books tags that are meaningful to you. You can then hoard that wealth of information to yourself, or you can make it public. That way, if you have books you've labeled Christian and fantasy and pirates (guess what I've been reading lately), and someone has a hankering for a book with those tags, you can help them find it. You can discuss books online or join a group. If you see a book you want, you can link to a book swap site and try to make a trade for it.

There's a Book Suggester option, where you enter the name of a book you like and Library Thing suggests others you might like. There's also a funny feature called the "Unsuggester," which tells you books you would probably detest.

My main use for Library Thing has been to ferret out books that might be similar to the stories I'm writing. I told you about my gothic ranch house in Georgia. So for starters I put in "gothic" and "Southern." I kept coming up with Flannery O'Connor stories. Hmm.