Library thing in university catalogue


The online library catalogue at Utrecht University not only has a design homepage to go with their cool design building. It has also just integrated Library Thing into their catalogue. When you look up a book, the search results come with a set of tags from Library Thing users, as well as a list of related books based on the Library Thing data:


The library homepage states that the catalogue has been “enriched” with this new functionality, but it does not give their reasons for including it.

I played around with it for a while, to see what it does. The list of related books below the tags is an odd set. It includes two other books by Greenblatt (Self-fashioning and Negotiations), Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, Stanley Fish on the reader in Paradise Lost, and Marjorie Garber’s Shakespeare After All. Sure, they are related books — but I could think of others that are closer to the themes that Hamlet in Purgatory deals with.

When you click on one of the tags, a tag browser opens to show you other books with the same tag. The useful thing is that this tag browser is integrated into the catalogue: it does not take you to Library Thing but shows you only books that have the same tags in the university catalogue. Here’s what you get, for example, when you click on the tag “Catholicism”:


These are books in the catalogue that have been tagged “Catholicism” by Library Thing users. When you click on one of them, you are taken back into the catalogue, to the data of the book you clicked on.

Now, I can assure you that the university library has many, many more books relevant to a subject search on Catholicism — a search on books with the word in its title alone renders 191 results. The conclusion of this little experiment is that the tag browser might not be a very thorough way of doing bibliographical research. On the other hand, the catalogue does not really have a lucid system for searching on keywords. If you go to the advanced search, there are two keyword-classification systems hidden thoroughly about midway through the list of options, and I do not really understand how to use either of them efficiently. The Library Thing tags could be a useful addition in that respect. They allow for associative clicking, and perhaps they will lead to serendipitous finds!

This is the first time I came across a Library Thing tag browser in a university library catalogue. I found this entry on the Library Thing blog, in which they announce that they will be working with Talis, who design software for libraries — perhaps this tag browser is a result of that cooperation.


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