Mashing LibraryThing and Polaris

The other day I mentioned computer code with which Polaris was toying to add more “funability” (Tim Spalding’s word) to the library catalog. Here’s how it would work:

Let’s say you bring up Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The first part of that bibliographic record is straight out of the library’s PAC, but nicely tucked below is a tag cloud piped in from LibraryThing‘s database of 25 million tags. Catalog users would get great visual cues about the book from the few thousand readers who tagged their own copy of the book in LibraryThing.

The words are not fixed LC subject headings. They were entered by readers of the book. That means the words will more likely relate to the readers browsing your catalog. There’s real benefit to that. (LC subject headings are still available in the PAC’s detailed view, mind you. For The Giver, they lead off with “Euphemism” and “Euthanasia”. Yawn.)

But the fun doesn’t stop there…

Click one of the tags and some LibraryThing javascript (inspired by LightBox) generates a long list of books that best match that particular tag. Who made that list? Everyone who tagged their own books. It’s an example of social website collaboration.  Tim Spalding has done such a remarkable job finding relationships in all his data crunching that the results are eerily good. What’s more, the titles returned from LibraryThing seamlessly filter out books not in your library’s catalog. Your patrons won’t be bogged down with stuff they can’t readily get their hands on. They can also continue clicking and browsing.

Tim described this concept months ago and has been able to tack it onto the catalogs of a few individual libraries already. I previously mentioned Danbury as the first example but, as far as I know, Bryan Rubenau at Polaris is the first to write code toward fully implementing this stuff into the guts of an ILS software package. His preliminary code rocks. If it goes into a future upgrade*, catalog users might soon search the reader-contributed tags (like “chick lit”) just as easily as they search titles, authors, and subject headings.

Impressed? Join the club.

*At the moment, Polaris is looking into the specific requirements for integration and asking its customers if they’re interested. There’s no formal partnership between LibraryThing and Polaris.

5 Responses to Mashing LibraryThing and Polaris

  1. Georgia says:

    YES! Yes!! YEs!!!!! YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. Note: I am slightly excited about this.

  2. Steve Campion says:

    Haha! Excited? Never would have guessed. You’re so low-key!

  3. Donnie says:

    This is fantastic. I went to the Danbury site. I looked up Da Vinci code and the tag cloud worked the way I had hoped. When I clicked on Magdalene, I got a list of related books. I love having access to the tag cloud. I know about and have visited LibraryThing, Flickr, I even have accounts, but I have not really participated. This makes me want to catalog my own library on LibraryThing. To be able to share my interests and my own tags with so many others in my own public library system is intriguing. I catalog materials for a school district. We don’t feel comfortable adding so many subject headings on the MARC record. The headings have to be accepted Sears subject headings. But, with the tag cloud, you have all the connections that a wide variety of people made. Some of these tags speak to me more than others. By the way, Steve, I notice that you are with my own Pierce County Library System, the best system around. I suspect you have something to do with many of the wonderful new services available at PCLS. Thanks for all you do.

  4. Jeff says:

    It was mentioned that the Library Thing partnership with Polaris would have some progress after this year’s PUG. I haven’t heard anything yet. I’ve already emailed them and I am just waiting to hear back.

    Great blog! Really good and useful content.

  5. Steve Campion says:

    Your comment gave me motivation to check back with Polaris myself. I’ll let you know what I find out.

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