Archive for March, 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

100 libraries using Library Anywhere!

iPhone version

We’re pleased to report that one hundred libraries have now chosen Library Anywhere as their mobile catalog! Library Anywhere takes an existing OPAC and makes it mobile—you can also create a custom homepage with Library Anywhere (add hours, events, contact info and more)—making it your entire mobile library website.

Try it.
Library Anywhere is flexible, and works with a wide variety of systems—which means we’re used by a wide range of libraries—from small public libraries and school libraries to large universities and huge consortia of public libraries. A few examples (of many):

See all the libraries using Library Anywhere listed here or just click the … menu within Library Anywhere and choose “Select a Library”.

What it includes. Library Anywhere includes an iPhone app, an Android app, a mobile web version, and the Universal/Accessible version, which works on any phone with web-browsing capabilities (Blackberry app coming soon). In short, something for everyone and every phone.

What it does. Library Anywhere lets you search the catalog, place holds, renew items. It does what the regular catalog does, but in a mobile friendly form.  You can also create a custom homepage on Library Anywhere, so you can include hours and location information, event and other RSS feeds, contact or “ask a librarian” links, and more!

Learn more about Library Anywhere here.

To order Library Anywhere, or get a free trial, call 877 340-2400, or email You can also email questions to

Universal version (works on any phone) Android version

Labels: library anywhere, mobile, mobile catalog

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Introducing Series and Awards

We’ve added a new enhancement to LibraryThing for Libraries, which combines two complementary enhancements: Series and Awards.

The Series enhancement draws from more than 50,000 series, and displays it right in the catalog. We provide a short description of the series (where available) and any related series (for example, The Chronicles of Narnia in both chronological order and in publication order).

For a given book, we display the name of the series and then the titles of all the books within that series. As with all the LTFL enhancements, each title links to that book’s page within your catalog.

See, for example, the page for Thursday Next in Lost in a good book in the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service Catalog. The series enhancement (displayed on the left-hand side) tells you this book is in the Thursday Next series. Click that series name and you see the series browser, which displays all the titles in that series, and links to each book in the library’s catalog.  If a library doesn’t have a given book, we still list it, but without a link.

Chemeketa has chosen just to show the title of the series in the catalog, but you can also configure the enhancement to show a few “preview titles” and then a show more button which launches the series browser (as in the Pink Carnation screenshot to the right).

Some more examples of the Series enhancement in action on these book pages:

The Awards enhancement taps into more than 25,000 awards and honors. It covers a huge range of awards, from the National Book Award and the Booker Prize to the Salon Book Award and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, or even Oprah’s Book Club selections.

See the awards on these books:

Put it in your OPAC
For ordering information contact Peder Christensen at Bowker—toll-free at 877-340-2400 or email

Questions? email me (

Labels: awards, librarything for libraries, ltfl, series

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

VIAF, OCLC and open data

Yesterday I released a service called “LC AuthoritiesThing.” The service solved a problem many have had with the LC Authorities website. Although a fine searchable resource, LC Authorities does not have stable URLs. Links die after a short period and are tied to sessions in a way that prevents sharing URLs during that period. LC AuthoritiesThing provides a window into the LC Authorities site which allows hard, reliable links. Various catalogers have thanked us for making the service, as it will allow them to refer to authority records more easily.

As an update to the post I took notice of VIAF, the Virtual Authority File, recommended to me as a substitute by a cataloger on Twitter. I assumed (apparently wrongly) that VIAF would at some point supercede LC Authorities. And I wrote that VIAF wasn’t a good substitute because it is an OCLC project, and encumbered by licensing restrictions.

Since then, I have received a diversity of communications that I am wrong. Although its data is hosted by and its services were developed and served by OCLC, VIAF is not an OCLC project, and the project has no access terms. Thomas Hickey from OCLC even wrote on this blog that full dumps are also available, although they must be approved somehow by project leaders.

This is welcome news. LibraryThing will be submitting a request for a full VIAF dump, and we’ll see where that goes. We will also look into automated harvesting of the website, or at least the LC portion of the data.

So much so good. But the situation is illustrative. Select people within the library community may believe that VIAF is free. But every public indication is that it is not free.

These indications include:

  1. OCLC copyright notices on every single page, and all VIAF-related pages on
  2. Links to the OCLC Terms and Conditions from multiple pages, including the Privacy page.
  3. A robots.txt file that prohibits automated access to result pages.
  4. The “About VIAF” project page prominently states “Use of our prototypes is subject to OCLC’s terms and conditions. By continuing past this point, you agree to abide by these terms.”

As all catalogers surely know, the OCLC Terms and Conditions are lengthy and explicit. Among other things they prohibit commercial use, automated use, storage of data, and use of the data for cataloging (!). They state that OCLC has sole and arbitrary discretion to discontinue access to anyone for any reason. They state that exceptions to the terms requires permission in writing from OCLC.

Meanwhile, apart from a blog comment from Thom Hickey, I can find no assertions that OCLC terms don’t apply to VIAF, no mention of dumps or of a process to get them.

VIAF is to be commended for its openness and lack of terms. This is a great move forward for open bibliographic data. But it needs to make greater efforts to make others aware of this state of affairs, and define the level and character of openness. (It’s still unclear to me whether VIAF asserts any ownership, or whether it is all in the public domain.) And VIAF should make efforts to remove multiple statements asserting that OCLC terms apply to VIAF data.

Labels: cataloging, oclc

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

LC AuthoritiesThing: Permanent links to LC Authority records

Library catalogs are notorious for their URL structure. More than a decade after the rest of the web decided on solid, permanent links, most library systems continue to generate ephemeral, usually session-based ones. Sometimes catalogs have a syntax for permanent links, but they’re a special, added feature.

The problem is at its worst with the Library of Congress Authorities system, used by catalogers and librarians the world over. The core of authority control is a stable identifier, in this case the LCCN, but the LC Authorities catalog can neither be searched by nor linked to by that identifier. No matter what URL you find, it dies when the session dies. You can’t even link to searches. What ought to be a rock is a puff of smoke.

The problem was been solved for Subject Authority files when the Library of Congress released the Authorities and Vocabularies website, which allows linking to subjects by their LCCN (eg., sh85026719). But name-authority files (ie., authors) have received no similar treatment.

LC AuthoritiesThing is a partial and tentative solution to that problem, a window into the Library of Congress Authorities catalog that allows permanent linking. Search for a name (or subject) and, when you find it, the page will have a tiny link icon () which serves as the permalink for the page.


It took a little magic to get it to work, but it does.* For now at least, you can’t link to records you haven’t found. If there’s interest, I will inject Simon Spero’s ingenious screen-scrape dump of LC Authority files, which will give me the necessary link between 001 and 035 fields.

For now, it’s just an experiment. Will anyone find it useful? Is it worth putting on its own domain? What would make it better? I know, anyway, that it can be of some use to LibraryThing. In the near future I plan to bolt it to LibraryThing itself, so members can link authors to their LC Authority number, when the link will help clarify things.

If you have any thought, discuss them here.

Update: It’s been objected that LC Authorities has or will be superseded by VIAF, the Virtual International Authority File, an aggregate of authority files from libraries around the world. Unfortunately, VIAF is another OCLC project, studded on every side by copyright assertions, EULAs, use restrictions and licensing terms. As with most everything else OCLC does, the core information was created at taxpayer expense, and is legally impossible to copyright. The rest was created by libraries with no intention of creating a proprietary resource. And the result is another proprietary, restricted and nigh-inescapable data monopoly.

*Behind the scenes it’s doing both proxied requests and stepping through pages as if it were. If anyone can come up with a better way, I’m all ears.

Labels: cataloging