Author Archive

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Project Managers Sought for OSC

Due to an increase in work commitments for both Laena and David, new
project managers are sought for the Open Shelves Classification project. Below is a status report of the project. Interested leaders should contact Tim Spalding (

OSC status report June 2009:

One year into the project, here is what we have accomplished so far:
-Many wide-ranging discussions were held in the LibraryThing Build
the Open Shelves Classification group and the OSC blog.

-Optional facets were agreed upon initially as the way to handle audience, format, and language.

-An initial list of top level categories was compiled by the end of 2008 and put out for review.

-In January 2009, LibraryThing members tested these categories by applying them to works in LibraryThing using the ClassifyThis feature.

-In January, a brainstorming meeting was held at the ALA midwinter meeting and was attended by librarians and non-librarians.

-In February, the feedback from the testing was used to further refine the top level categories.

-Starting in February and running through May, small groups began to construct the secondary levels for certain categories.

-Throughout the spring, Laena and David did outreach for the project, writing pieces for the PLA blog and the IFLA
, and reached out to libraries in an unsuccessful search for public library data.

-In May, the current list of categories of the OSC was added to sandbox of the National Science Digital Library Metadata Registry.

Categories with second levels in development:
-Biography & Autobiography
-Performing Arts

After working on the project for a year, we have the following recommendations:
-The project needs a steering committee structure for leadership. The
project is too large in scope for one or two librarians to manage
without other leadership.

-More involvement and leadership from public librarians! They know
the intended audience of the OSC best.

Labels: Open Shelves Classification, OSC

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Classify your heart out

Here it is, the revised list of top level categories. These have been vetted by all of us for awhile and it’s time to start building subcategories. We’ve created threads in the Group to discuss the subcategories of each top level. Keep in mind that these need to be comprehensive, but not excessively granular. Take a look at this example of possible subcategories for PETS.

After more of the second levels are fleshed out, we plan to have a new classify-this feature to test out the classification system on books in LibraryThing.

Until then, classify and discuss!

Labels: Open Shelves Classification, OSC

Friday, February 20th, 2009

What do Ben Franklin and C.S. Lewis have in common?

Answer: They’re both on LibraryThing!

I’m pleased to announce the completion of Benjamin Franklin’s LT catalog. This project wouldn’t have been possible without the gracious permission of the American Philosophical Society and the Library Company of Philadelphia, the publishers of The Library of Benjamin Franklin (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2006). Not only have they made the book available via Google Books (here), but they also gave us permission to enter the data from it completely, including the wonderful and incredibly useful annotations by Edwin Wolf 2nd and Kevin Hayes, whose hard work and bibliographical sleuthing made the book possible in the first place.

On the LT end, thanks to pdxwoman, who got the project off the ground way back in January 2008, to hopeglidden and benjclark who cataloged portions of the collection, and to katya0133, who
entered a major chunk of the titles. I jumped in in November and worked to add more titles and augment the records by entering the annotations. We got on a roll in January; since the start of the year, Katya and I added 2,009 titles, ~800 of them in the last ten days.

You can browse the catalog here, read Franklin’s reviews, and check out his stats. Not surprisingly, he shares many titles with his other Early American comrades.

No sooner is one finished than another is begun, around here. I’ll be tackling the Virginia Georges next (Washington and Wythe) but BOB81 has taken on the task of heading up the creation of an LT catalog for C. S. Lewis, based on a listing created by the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. If you’re interested in helping out, sign up here.

[So far Lewis and Franklin only have one work in common, The Spectator. More to come, I’m sure.]

Labels: ben franklin, c.s. lewis, legacies

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Open Shelves Classification Update

Hello! Well we have been busy since Tim announced the classify-this feature. The OSC group has been extremely active with over 300+ posts about the top level categories (not to mention insightful threads popping up to discuss second level categories). Thank you for your feedback! Meanwhile, at the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association we were able to have a really valuable face-to-face conversation with LibraryThing users.

We have been processing all your feedback and working on version 2.0 of the top level categories. Before we get to that, we wanted to let everyone know that we do read all the posts in the Open Shelves Classification group. Because of the high quantity of posts (and our day jobs) we cannot comment or respond individually as often as we would like.

Some key points after discussion, feedback and analysis:

The number of categories in the top level. As decided last summer, we will have more rather than fewer top level categories. The top levels are not supposed to represent an even distribution of all possible branches of knowledge. Instead, the OSC top levels should represent the largest categories that public libraries will want to use. [Similar to how Library of Congress classification was built to meet the needs of the Library of Congress, while Dewey’s system tried to contain all recorded knowledge.]

Complaints about specific topics in the top level. Remember, there is no value judgment in a topic being placed at the top level or underneath a broader topic. For now, topics like Pets, Gardening, and True Crime are present because of feedback from public librarians that these are heavily requested books that are often pulled out into their own sections. As a guiding principle, the OSC will be statistically tested, so some of our top level categories may change as actual libraries begin to reclassify their collections.

-The nature of classification. Any classification system forces us to choose one topic for the book, even though that book may be about more than one topic. This is not a flaw in the OSC categories but in the nature of classification. Libraries will still use multiple subject headings in the catalog to capture all the topical aspects of the work.

Facets. As talked about a few months ago, we currently plan on the top level categories being only topical while other aspects of the work will be represented by facets. For example, format will be captured in a separate facet. [And to clear up any lingering confusion, Comics will be a format facet.] Another facet talked about was audience. This means children’s books will be tagged in the audience facet. We envision that these facets will be optional and libraries can use them if, for example, they want to pull out all the comics and shelve them in a unique section. Alternatively, the facet could be ignored and then graphic novels would be intershelved with other like topics. Here is a picture of what we are envisioning:
Classification versus Signage. The top levels categories have nothing to do with
signage. This is particularly true with children’s books, which can be grouped/displayed as the library desires (e.g. picture books, infants, board books, etc.).

We will posting an updated version of the top levels very soon, so stay tuned!

Labels: Open Shelves Classification, OSC

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

OSC gets the once-over at ALA in Denver

As most of you know, back in July the Open Shelves Classification was conceived as a free, crowdsourced alternative to the Dewey Decimal System. The Group has been very active during initial development, and the top levels are being heatedly debated.

David, Tim and I held an OSC open-discussion at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Denver. A great group of people participated in a lively debate about the project.

To summarize:

There was some room confusion with the Marriott and, unfortunately, many people left before it was all figured out.

10 people attended: Tim, Laena, David, a mix of public librarians, academic librarians, and one interested non-librarian. The librarians were catalogers, reference librarians, and one library director.

Comments during the meeting included:

The random works feature is not that useful because half of all the works are fiction and fiction is not broken out at the top level.

If a public library may reasonably want to aggregate at a certain level (e.g. fiction or science) then it should exist as a top level. No one aggregates at non-fiction, hence it is not useful.

Working on the second level for fiction should happen sooner rather than later.

Children’s books are a challenge.

Perhaps using an audience facet would help (for example, CH, YA)?

  • Yes, but the topics of some books are hard to determine. Should they be put in fiction? If so, a scope note is needed.
  • Speaking of which, there is no good way of dealing with series when written by separate authors, like Spongebob Books.

How should series be handled in a classification?

The Darien library is reorganizing their collection, particularly children’s books, in interesting ways (here, you can listen to Gretchen Hams tell you all about it).

For OSC to be successful, it must be easy to implement for public libraries.

It must be inexpensive to go from DDC-OSC.

A crosswalk is essential!

  • There needs to be a way to determine how much space is needed ahead of time to move the books around.
  • It must be easy to print labels.
  • Backstage Library Works was a company that moved Duke University Libraries from DDC to LC, so there must be models out there on how to do this.

An audience facet would be a good way to handle reading level as well, either by grade or age.

  • Example: 0-1, 1-3, 9-10, etc.
  • There is a tension between having too many optional facets and universality.

The facets need to transcend stickering, the current practice in most public libraries.

We need a reality check before getting to far down the road with proposed schedules for OSC– will it work in an actual library?

  • We could upload a library’s MARC records into LT and try it there virtually before asking a library to use it.
  • Two potential public libraries were listed as testing grounds.

So far, the top levels testing on LibraryThing has provided the following results:

  • 56641 acts of classification
  • By 1000+ users
  • On 22,000+ works

What are the biggest tags in LibraryThing, can we use those to determine the levels?

  • They were looked at and evaluated, hence True Crime is a top level.
  • This can’t really be done in an automated way.

What is the product plan for OSC?

  • The data is open source & free.
  • If people want to package services around the data (such as reclassifying books for you), then that is a possibility, but we do not see this developing for at least a year or so.

What does “shelf-ready” mean?

  • A vendor puts on labels, dust jackets, tattle tape, creates catalog records for a public library.
  • Different people at the meeting had differing levels of success with outsourcing their books to be made shelf-ready by vendors.

Is bleed over between categories in OSC a bug or a feature?

  • Memoirs/Autobiographies was seen as a bug.
  • Others such as Pets/ScienceAnimals were not seen that way.

Putting categories in an order may help people’s confusion of where to put things.

  • This is called “flow” in bookstores.
  • E.g. Cooking—Health—Sports or Biography—History—Poly Sci

Confusion arose over facets.

  • You add and delete depending on the libraries needs.
  • Huge collection? Use them all. Small and only need Science and Religion? Go ahead, the system is flexible.

The top level testing will stop and the levels will begin to be re-worked this week.

How should Art, Architecture, Design, and Photography be handled?

  • After much discussion, the consensus was reached that Art, Architecture, and Design should be separate top level categories, but that Photography would go under Art.

The first test round has been closed. Visit the Open Shelves Classification group for details.

Meeting like this was great and very helpful in making OSC usable. Another meeting is planned in New York for early April–we’ll keep you posted!

Labels: Open Shelves Classification, OSC

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Lawrence of Arabia’s library, and other Legacy updates

The latest addition to the ever-expanding Legacy Library universe is T.E. Lawrence, whose 1,181-title library was entered (in just two months) by Kordo, BGP, and Direlander. The collection, drawn from an inventory of Lawrence’s books made at the time of his death, is very rich and certainly worth a browse.

Lawrence’s books include a wide selection of title by authors such as W.B. Yeats (also a Legacy Library in progress), George Bernard Shaw, William Morris, D.H. Lawrence, Sir Basil Henry Liddell-Hart (ditto), Thomas Hardy, Stephen Crane and William Blake, plus many classical titles and fine press books (including a Kelmscott Chaucer).

Another recent completion (in keeping with the military theme) is Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., whose library was added to LT by sergerca and BOB81 from Roger Nye’s The Patton Mind. Not surprisingly, Patton’s books primarily concern military theory and practice.

The Libraries of Early America announcement brought a huge influx of suggestions for that project (at least forty new suggestions for collections, plus some additions to existing libraries). I’ve been thrilled by the response, and can report that some of the suggestions are already completed, with more underway. As a direct result of the project announcement, LT now includes the libraries of New York’s Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (his books are now in the library of Yale Law School) and John Askin, a fur trader and local official in early Michigan. The colonial-era collection of the Pennsylvania General Assembly (partially purchased by Benjamin Franklin) has also been added, by LTer Melancthon.

2008 was an extremely productive year for the Legacy Libraries project, and we anticipate continued progress and advancement in the new year.

Labels: legacies, libraries of the dead

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Libraries of Early America: Project Announcement

I’ve posted the following announcement on several rare book/library/American history listservs this morning as the official rollout of the Libraries of Early America project, an offshoot of the Legacy Libraries effort specifically for libraries created in America before c. 1825. Note: I’ve “blog-ified” the announcement here by adding additional links.

Have you ever wondered what books Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had in their personal libraries? How about 18th-century Virginia musician Cuthbert Ogle, or four generations of Mather family members? Or the most active female book collector in Virginia during the colonial/early national period, Lady Jean Skipwith?

A new project will make it possible to search, compare and study these and other Libraries of Early America. Using the book-cataloging website, scholars from institutions around the country (including Monticello, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Public Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society and others) have begun the process of creating digital catalogs of early American book collections – the project covers anyone who lived in America and collected primarily before 1825.

Is your institution home to any personal library collections or library inventories/book lists? Have you run across early American library catalogs (manuscript or printed) in the course of your research? We have begun compiling a list of collections to be added and are happy to receive further submissions.

Also, if your institution’s holdings include books from any of the personal libraries already completed or underway, we would be very interested to hear of them so that the records can be added to the database. While it will be impossible to catch every single book ever owned or read by these individuals, we intend to make these catalogs as complete as possible, so every title helps.

For more information, links, and so forth, please visit the Libraries of Early America group page. Feel free to ask any questions or offer any suggestions you have on the project, and if you’d like to volunteer, we’d love the assistance.

Labels: Uncategorized

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Open Shelves Classification Update: Looking for Data from Public Libraries

The Build the Open Shelves Classification group continues to work on the top level classification categories. The word is out and people are excited about the direction we’re headed! But we need your help if we want to continue to build this together. We are gathering information in two ways:

1) Group members are searching their public library catalogs by the Dewey numbers associated with our draft list of top level categories and reporting their findings here. This is giving us a good sense of which categories have the biggest representation in public library collections. So far we have good data from large urban public libraries, but we would like more diverse library data. Here is a sample of what we have seen so far:

Please continue to add to the online spreadsheet (you will need a Google account to view or edit) for the next two weeks.

2) As you can see from the chart, the books that are represented by our current top level categories only represent a fraction of their total library collection. We need public librarian volunteers to evaluate what subjects get used the most in their library. You can run a report in your ILS (integrated library system) on subject heading circulation statistics. If you don’t know how, ask your systems or technical services librarian. Be anonymous, we do not need to know WHO just WHAT. Thanks to all who have already begun to do this. You can post your results here.

Once we have this information, we can then evaluate if the working list of top level categories needs to be edited.

In other news, graduate students studying Information and Library Science at the Pratt Institute in New York are working on various cataloging projects involving Open Shelves Classification, such as concept mapping OSC to LibraryThing tags. We look forward to sharing their results here on the blog in a few weeks.
Finally, many libraries around the country are trying to create new, usable, efficient alternatives to Dewey. The Frankfort Public Library District is going Dewey free (with stickers to boot, see image above) using a modified version of BISAC. What do you think? As a collective, I think we can improve upon this (also, let us know what you think about this).

Labels: OSC

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Open Shelves Classification Update: What We Are Working On

Our first priority is to set the top level categories for the OSC.

Many ideas have been discussed in the thread on this topic, now it is time to test if these categories actually represent the holdings of public libraries.

We need volunteers to take the working list of top level categories listed in the wiki (…) and look at online catalogs for public libraries. Most online catalogs will allow you to search by Dewey Call Number, so Laena is going through and finding the correlating Dewey Numbers for each of the top level categories. She should be done this later today and will post the information to the wiki. Please search by Dewey Numbers correlated to our top level categories and then report on the wiki how many books turn up for each category. You will need to figure out how to search using wildcards in your catalog so that you turn up books will longer Dewey Numbers as well.

Once we have this information, we can then evaluate if the working list of top level categories needs to be edited.

Labels: Uncategorized