The 2008 LITA National Forum opened Friday afternoon with a general opening session remarks by Tim Spalding, founder and developer, of LibraryThing.com. Tim presented What is Social Cataloging and Why Should You Care?
(Blogging relatively ‘Live’ thanks toÂ spottyÂ ’free’ wireless, a wired connection in my room, and a charged battery.)
I have to admit that I played around with LibraryThing a bit when it first went online, but not much since. My take is that for individuals it is essentially Facebook for book readers. For libraries, however, it can provide a fresh discovery layer for legacy catalog systems. There are seven libraries using LibraryThing for Libraries, including theÂ High Plains Library District.
Tim started out with some updated statistics. LibraryThing now catalogs over 32 million books and is larger than the Library of Congress. Users can search for books using Amazon and 690 libraries. While atÂ it’s core LibraryThing remains a personal cataloging system, there is a very significant social networkingÂ component. The largest active social group remainsÂ Librarians who LibraryThing.
Tim then provided a nice tour of the major features of LibraryThing using a ‘social cataloging ladder’ to highlight them. The one I found to be the most unique wasÂ theÂ ”UnSuggester” which displays books that you will not like if you like a specific book.
The comment that caught my ear during this comments was when he said “Library 2.0 is in danger.” After the presentation, I waited around and talked to Tim about this comment, and apparently I wasn’t alone. He appeared surprised that people though it was controversial. I didn’t think it was so muchÂ controversialÂ as it was spot on.
As I interpreted Tim’s comments, his concern is two fold. First,Â Libraries areÂ concentrating on what they can do with the 2.0 tools, but not what they can do best with them. Libraries are using wikis, blogs, and even Facebook pages simply because they can. They may not be using the tools in the best possible ways. Second, vendors are selling libraries on 2.0 features because libraries are asking for and licensing them. Libraries are telling vendors they want 2.0 features but they may not really know what they want to do with them.
The reason Library 2.0 may be in danger is that a library’s experience with what are essentially first generation Web 2.0 tools (My words. Do they even make sense?). I believe Tim is concerned that if libraries do not have positive experiences with the current generation tools, or how they are being used, libraries may simply bypass the next generation tools and, as Tim phrased it, “throw the baby out with the bath water.” (Tim, if you are out there, please expand, correct, or clarify via a comment!)
(NOTE: the audience was encouraged to submit to Tim one idea that you would like to see in LibraryThing. So, feel free to overwhelm him and email one of yours. His email address is not hard to find.)