Archive for February, 2013

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

BookPsychic gets better

Since the release of BookPsychic, LibraryThing’s first-of-its-kind recommendation service for library patrons, we’ve received a lot of feedback, and implemented four major changes.

Authors you’ve read. Some reviewers found BookPsychic recommended too many books by authors they had already read. Others thanked us for a useful way to discover backlist titles by authors they loved. The issue is basic. While BookPsychic, like LibraryThing, tends to “recommend down”—from more popular to more obscure books by an author—it certainly does recommend books by authors you rate.

Instead of establishing a new rule, like “no recommendations for authors you rate,” we decided to treat this as a display issue. Same-author recommendations should be there, but they should be clearly separated somehow.

To implement this we came up with a recommendation section for “Recommendations by authors you have rated” (seen at right). So the high-volume Danielle Steel reader can stop dealing with so many books you already know about, but the teenager who recently finished The Lord of the Rings can discover The Silmarillion or The Children of Húrin.

We also push same-author books back somewhat in the genre browsing. You’ll see them, but fewer of them.

Search. BookPsychic was designed as a recommendation system integrated into your OPAC, not an OPAC itself. So the first version passed you back into the OPAC when you wanted to search. But some reviewers found this clunky, and wanted a quick way to search for books to rate.

So we added a search box. It’s simple to use and keeps you in BookPsychic. You can rate items right from the results.

Other authors. Together with the search box, we added a back-of-book button for “more by this author.” It’s a handy way to give Steel or Tolkien a dozen thumbs up.

Coverage. BookPsychic’s coverage continues to improve, with most libraries seeing 55-75% of their ISBNs falling into one or more of its preset genres. A higher percent can be recommended, and everything can be rated.

The system now also picks up non-ISBN items in your library collection, and we’ve added a new genre for “Art and Design.” We’re eager to develop more genres, as wanted.

Speed. It’s faster!

Labels: BookPsychic, new features, recommendations

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

LTFL adds an Australian server!

For a company based in the United States, LibraryThing for Libraries has a surprisingly large number of library customers in Australia and New Zealand. For months we’ve been working on our infastructure to ensure that our data loads as fast as possible in those catalogues on the other side of the world. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve brought live our first server located just outside of Sydney, Australia!

This change means that the LibraryThing for Libraries data won’t have to travel around the world, so it will load considerably faster in each catalogue. Light can travel around the world 7.5 times in a second. But even 133 milliseconds isn’t nothing, and with all the other stuff that goes on, the internet never goes that fast. Sydney may not be right next door to all our Australian libraries, but it’s a lot closer than Boston, Massachusetts.(1)

Of the libraries that have switched to the Australian server so far, we’re seeing speed increases of about 100%—that is, if you’re in Australia, LibraryThing for Libraries’ load time has been cut in half! (Note that because LibraryThing for Libraries loads from your browser, if you hit these libraries from the US, you’ll find them slower—slow like Australia used to be.)

Currently the Australian server is running the catalogue enrichment (Ratings and reviews, Tags, Similar Books, Series, Awards, Shelf Browse, Stack Map, Other Editions, and Lexile Measures.), BookPsychic, and our new Book Display Widgets.

Up next, we’ll be working on moving libraries on Library Anywhere, our mobile product, over to the new server!

Let me know if your library (in Australia or New Zealand) subscribes to LTFL and needs assistance in moving to the new server. Email

1. For now we’re going to hold off on a “LibraryThing Europe” server. The connections from the East Coast to Europe are very fast, and Europe is closer, so Europeans experience only lag by a hundred milliseconds or so.

Labels: australia, librarything for libraries

Friday, February 1st, 2013

A service tester for catalog-only computers

Libraries usually have special computers set aside for catalog searching only. They’re often set up to block non-catalog websites, so you don’t check Facebook from the catalog computers.

Unfortunately, the domain whitelists don’t always include all the enrichment services catalogs use, such as LibraryThing for Libraries, Syndetic Solutions, Google Books and so forth. (I discovered this recently at a local public library that uses LibraryThing for Libraries and Syndetic Solutions, neither of which functioned properly from the catalogs in the children’s section.)

To address this I created the Services Tester, a simple webpage to hit from catalog computers. As illustrated on the right, it reports on which domains worked and which didn’t, so a library can make sure all the needed domains are open.

I hope you find it useful! If you have other services to add, email me at And if this gets you intrigued about LibraryThing for Libraries, check us out and email to find out more!

Technical notes:

  • Since catalog computers are often the oldest computers in the library, this has been tested down to XP IE6/FF3.
  • This works by loading images from the domains (in an invisible div) and using a sturdy, cross-browser way of identifying failed images. I couldn’t find a cross-browser (to IE6) technique for scripts, without looking for their internals, so I found images at each domain.
  • Subdomains vary extensively, either to split content across logical divisions or to thwart browser limits on concurrent downloads from a single domain. (In fact, of the library-specific services, only LibraryThing seems to do this. It makes a big difference.) To be sure services work, I recommend opening up all subdomains—except Google. If you open Google up all the way, catalog searchers will try to use Google’s main search page—and discover every link doesn’t work.

Labels: opacs, tools