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Because I’m a nerd, I spent much of my holiday weekend listening to NPR and cataloging my books in LibraryThing. Here’s what I wrote about my collection:

I’ve always been a heavy library user, so the books that I keep at home tend to fall into three categories: things I read in college and grad school, things I’ve read on planes or vacation, or things I can’t get at my local libraries. I also have a small collection of juvenile fiction that I read when I was young and thought might go out of print and get deselected from libraries. I probably won’t be very disciplined about including library books that I borrow in this collection.

I can’t figure out if I’m glad or sorry that I started this project after weeding my collection down to half or a third of what it used to be. I’m pretty sure I’m glad, though, because working on my laptop (without a convenient number pad) typing in all those ISBNs is a pain. I also discovered that I have a LOT of books that don’t have ISBNs. Those are a major pain to find and enter. I spent the longest time searching for a record for my 1930 edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I’d put off even looking at LibraryThing until last month mostly because it sounded like just the sort of thing I’d get addicted to and spend way too much time doing. But finally the call of another mode for sharing and organizing stuff became too strong for me and I caved.

Still, even though I had a lot of fun and can see this becoming as much a part of my life as my Flickr and have become, there are a couple of things I’d like to be able to do but can’t. I’m still not sure if I can’t because there is no way, or because I haven’t figured out the way, but here goes.

What I wish I could do (or may be able to do but can’t figure out how):

  • Sort by multiple fields at the same time
  • See who has added me to their watch list, or who other people are watching (a la networking or Flickr contacts)
  • Click on tags other people have given to my book, or selections from my own tags, in order to tag my books. (I hated going back after a couple of days and finding that I’d been hyphenating some works at one point and not later one.)
  • Batch editing/merging of tags.
  • Public/Private comments
  • Fields for translators/illustrators
  • “Advanced search” of multiple fields (like title, author, date, and publisher) to cover those times when you run into a whole shelf of books with no ISBNs.

I’ve found a couple of familiar people out there and added them to my watch list, but only a very, very few. Anybody out there who wants to share your LibraryThing name?

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  1. CW CW

    I’ve been a LibraryThing fan for a while now. It’s amusing how addictive it can be – pre-LibraryThing I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told me adding books to a catalogue could be so compelling! :)

    My username is flexnib. Yours?

  2. Mark Mark

    Mine is the highly original mlindner.

    But can you explain why you might want to use the watchlist feature? It is one of those things that I could probably dream up a reason to use, in a rare case, for others, but seems mostly pointless for me and to me.

  3. Iris Iris

    I know exactly what you mean, CW. Though I did embark on a major (and never-finished) project to list the title, author, and location of each of my family’s thousand or so books when I was about 12…

    Mark, there’s no “good” reason. But I do like to compare libraries to see how many books I have in common with my friends (so far, not many). Also, I discovered a lot of very cool librarians when I joined Flickr simply by clicking through people’s contact lists and then seeing who made me a contact. Other than that, it’s all purely curiosity. Chalk it up to my being one of those crazy digital natives. :)


  4. Joshua M. Neff Joshua M. Neff

    Since my LT library is linked from my blog, I assume you know my profile is the equally original joshuamneff.

    I love LibraryThing, and Tim Spalding is one of my new heroes, but I agree with everything on your LT wishlist, especially the networking bit and the thing about tags.

  5. Iris Iris

    Well, I take comfort that many of the things on my wishlist are also listed on the official wishlist at LT. I gotta say, though, most of those official wishes are pretty amusing. You don’t need a check box to indicate when you own or borrowed a book… just tag it. :)

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