Monday, February 26th, 2007

New feed: Compare your library with LibraryThing

Over on Next Generation Catalogs for Libraries, NCSU‘s Emily Lynema, asked me:

“Do you have any idea of the coverage of non-fiction, research materials in LT? Have you done any projects to look at overlap with a research institution (or with WorldCat)?”

No, we haven’t. And I’m dying to find out, both for academic and non-academic libraries.

So I put together a feed of all unique LibraryThing’s ISBNs. With a little work, library programmers should be able to compare them against their holdings.

If you’re not up to the task, but still want to find out how LibraryThing compares to your library, you can send me a file with ISBNs—just ISBNs or a more detailed dump—and I’ll do the comparison.

See our Feeds and APIs page for the file, AllLibraryThingISBNs.xml.gz.

Complications and opportunities:

  • I included only valid ISBNs.
  • It’s a week or two old.
  • About 20% of LibraryThing books have invalid or no ISBN. Many of these have LCCNs. I suspect a high percentage are library-ish books.
  • I have turned all ISBN-13s in 978 format into ISBN-10s. There are a few bogus ones too, including the valid but numerically absurd 0000000000. (Bowker should auction that one off!)
  • There can be little doubt that LibraryThing is stronger in paperbacks and weaker in the formats libraries collect. It would therefore be very useful to run all ISBNs through OCLC’s xISBN service*. (By definition, they’re not going to be improved by running them through xISBN’s chief competitor alternative service provider, thingISBN.) Unfortunately, I can’t run them through xISBN on my own.
  • The feed is available for non-commercial use only. That basically means libraries and hobbyists. Other use is expressly prohibited.
  • I am guessing the overlap won’t always be that impressive as a percentage. But these are the books people think enough of to own. They’re going to move more than other library books.

I’m looking forward to what people find out!

*Which is moving, but will not break.

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