Getting Serious about LibraryThing

Like any good proto-librarian, I signed up for a LibraryThing account months ago, and added a few books to see what sort of features were available. I even added LibraryThing to my Bloglines blogroll, keeping up to date on their improvements and updates. At first, I wasn’t bowled over by the site. Sure, the sheer number of books available to add was impressive, as was the scale of the site; there are hundreds of thousands of bibliophiles like myself adding books non-stop. But it took a long time to add books, tag them, and add reviews. I didn’t see any long-term utility for the site in my life.

That was until we decided to move to San Francisco this summer. In the process of packing up my books, I realized that I don’t have any kind of record of my library. There’s no catalog or shelf list. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but when packing up every single one of my precious tomes and shipping them across the country, I get a little anxious about one or two boxes falling through the cracks. So last night I spent several hours entering my books into LibraryThing, with great results:

Just about every book I own is owned by at least one other nerd on the planet, and only a few books are missing covers. I was pretty impressed. I tagged each book with it’s genre, and occassionally, it’s use. I made notes of which books had inscriptions, signatures and annotations that make them valuable to me. Currently, we have our books shelved by color, so I made a note of the color on the spine. The last thing I did was tag each book with a letter – A, B, C, D, or E – corresponding to which of the five UHaul boxes it ended up in. I’m hoping to be able to use these tags later to create box lists, so that once we reach CA I can replace any books lost or damaged in the move.

Of course, I’m not done. Four hours last night was not enough, and we need to order more boxes. I’ve got a good two or three more boxes of stuff, and my partner has his own 5-7 boxes of stuff (are collections are pretty diverse, with only a few overlaps. Maybe that’s part of why we fell in love? Both obsessive collectors of books?) so there will be more LibraryThinging in the future.

And of course, I did some deaccessioning. There are quite a few gems from my goth and chicklit days available on half.com right about now.

I like LibraryThing (as opposed to Bibliophil and GoodReads, both of which also garnered experimental accounts) because of their commitment to working with brick and mortar libraries, and the fact that they have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on with different Web 2.0 applications across the internets. My only concerns are about the utility of LibraryThing. I’ve got all my books entered, but how can I manipulate the data now that it’s on the web? Am I going to be able to print reports or catalogs that’ll help me take and keep inventory? What sort of tags will I have wished I’d entered when I go to re-shelve all this stuff in our new place? I’ve also thought a lot about how to use it to manage classroom libraries, but haven’t come up with any good solutions.

I’ll keep playing around with LibraryThing until I get a handle on how it can work for me. Right now it’s giving some focus to a very unfocused move, so that’s one useful feature right there.

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