or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


CoverGuess from LibraryThing

   March 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

CoverGuess websiteCoverGuess was released last week, and the LibraryThing blog post explains the what and why better than I can:

What is CoverGuess?

CoverGuess is a sort of game. We give you covers, and you describe them in words. If you guess the same things as other players, you get points.

Why are you doing this?

The goal is to have fun, but also to build up a database of cover descriptions, to answer questions like "Do you have that book with bride on the bicycle?"

You have to have a LibraryThing account to play, but it's worth a free account to get in on the action.

CoverGuess was inspired by one of my favorite internet timesinks, Google's Image Labeler. Both of these make the internet a better place, but CoverGuess could actually help in answering reference questions. I'll be keeping watch for when the search component is released, but for now, racking up tagging points is fun.



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LCSH: Fallery–Sky

   October 1st, 2009 Brian Herzog

cookery signThis announcement was making the rounds yesterday on Twitter, and it seems to qualify as the-sky-is-falling type news:

The Library of Congress is revising their "Cookery" subject heading [pdf], saying:

The use of the term “cookery” will be discontinued in these categories of headings. The term “cooking” will be used instead in most cases.

The "Cookery" example was always the go-to citation for demonstrating how traditional library institutions were out of date, and how Web 2.0 tagging filled a need by linking together books and information based on the way people actually think and speak.

LibraryThing.com has led the way in much of this innovation and development, showing the old timers better ways to serve library patrons. This Cookery change shows that the powers that be are paying attention. So does Ebsco's release of NoveList Select, which mimics LibraryThing for Libraries' functionality by putting NoveList data right into the library catalog (where our patrons already are), instead of making them go somewhere else for it.

People often refer to these traditional library vendors and institutions as dinosaurs, but they seem to be learning from and closing the gap with the inflatable rhino.



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LibraryThing Flash-Mob Cataloging Party

   February 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Update: Check out some photos from the day.

librarything logoLibraryThing'ers are having a second flash-mob cataloging party this Saturday, Feb 21st, at the Rhode Island Audubon Society.

The first one was at St. John's Episcopal Church just north of Boston - it looked like fun, but I missed it because I worked that Saturday. This time it looks to be a smaller group, so if anyone is interested and in the area, read the details on the LibraryThing blog and get in touch with Sonya.

It should be a lot of fun, a chance to meet other LibraryThing people, and the Audubon resources will be inherently interesting. Dorky, I know, but I'm looking forward to it. Plus, any reason to go to Rhode Island is a good one.



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Selection Speculation

   November 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

We Buy Books photoPersonnel changes at my library are changing the way we do collection development. So for the past couple weeks, I've been thinking about how to incorporate more review-reading and book selection into my workday.

Since this has been on my mind, I had two slightly unusual ideas for potential ways to supplement more traditional selection.

Selection via LibraryThing Early Reviewers
I've been a part of the LibraryThing.com Early Reviewers program since it started (if you haven't, and enjoy reading, it's worth checking out). I've used this as a resource for new books for awhile, but something I noticed recently was that the books I like often had the most requests.

My idea was for Tim to whip together one of his useful tools, so that librarians (or anyone who signed up) could receive an email (or rss feed) each month after the list has closed, with the title of each book, how many requests it got, and also a link to LibraryThing or Amazon. My logic was that if a book appears popular with LibraryThing'ers, there's a good chance it will also be popular in my library.

I wrote to Tim and asked him about this just a couple days ago, and I'm hoping for a positive response. But if you like the idea, contact LibraryThing and ask them to implement it. Lobbying like this is probably the last thing he wants, but I do think this could be a valuable and unique selection tool.

Selection via Universal Medical Database
For awhile now there's been talk about the government and hospitals trying to start a single database of health information of every American.

The pros are that it'd be easier for a doctor anywhere in the country to access someone's medical history in an emergency, and it could also prevent conflicting medications and stop people shopping around for prescription narcotics. Drawbacks of the idea are that it potentially leaves people open to an invasion of privacy, or allows employers and others to discriminate based on medical conditions.

What does this have to do with libraries? It occurred to me that if such a universal system ever were put in place, it could potentially be used to help improve a library's collection of medical books. If real-time statistics could be provided on what conditions and illnesses were prevalent in a particular community, the library could use that information to make sure it had books and information on those topics.

Not that either of these might ever come to pass, and they both have a very big-brothery feel to them. These ideas are just some idle speculation on alternative selection tools to supplement traditional methods.



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Keeping Up and Moving Ahead

   July 10th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Change Agent badgeBecause of two consecutive weekends hosting visitors, I've gotten way behind with emailing and reading blogs and computery things in general. Of the 174 feeds in my Bloglines account, the ones I've been most grateful for are those I can just click on to make not-new, without actually having to read.

But saying that, one blog post did stand out and demand attention. This was Tim at LibraryThing's proposal for a new open source cataloging classification system to replace Dewey.

I like the idea right off in principle, and I'm very happy that Tim has created a forum to get the ball rolling and get people talking about it.

In practicality, though, I don't know how well it'll work. It seems like the really great ideas are born of one person and their unwaivering drive and passion to accomplish it. I like the idea, but I am not sure if genesis-by-committee can be successful. Something like this (or Craig's List or Wikipedia or Linux) seems to need to be centralized and dictatorial in the beginning, and then opened to the public once it's proven and off and running.

But I hope it works. I'm going to be watching it, and I encourage everyone else to do the same - and contribute. I agree with Jessamyn in that, to get tools that are innately useful to libraries, they will have to come from librarians - everything else is just someone's product.



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Books, Coming and Going

   January 3rd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Early Reviewer Book ArrivesThis post is somewhat in the New Year's spirit of "out with the old, in with the new..."

Although I've worked around books for a long time, two things happened last week that have never happened to me before:

Books, Coming:
I was chosen to be a LibraryThing Early Reviewer! I've been trying ever since they started, but this is the first time I've gotten to participate.

A copy of Tim Dorsey's Atomic Lobster showed up on my doorstep right after Christmas '07, even though it's not being published until 1/22/08. I've never read anything by him, let alone the preceding books in this series, but I'm always open to reading new things.

Thank you, LibraryThing and HarperCollins. I'll read and review it as soon as I finish one of my Christmas presents, Water for Elephants.

Books, Going:
Faithful readers may remember me mentioning the idea of an Airport Public Library, and then using BookCrossing to kick it off.

Since then, every time I've flown somewhere, I leave books in airports. My trip to Ohio for Christmas resulted in the APL's first circulation - someone "captured" and registered one of my books on the site.

What a good week for books.

airport public library, apl, book, bookcrossing, books, early reviewer, early reviewers, library, librarything, lt, thing



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