Thursday, July 12, 2007

LibraryThing for Libraries: Waterford and Deschutes

Two more libraries have added LibraryThing for Libraries:

Waterford Institute of Technology (catalog) in Waterford in south east Ireland. WIT becomes our first academic library, and our first one outside the US. Apart from that, we were particularly happy to get the ball up and rolling. WIT's David Kane and I have been corresponding for some time, and quite profitably. Long before LibraryThing for Libraries, he tried to bolt our recommendations onto the WIT catalog. His solution—functional but requred real-time scraping of the WIT catalog—threw the technical challenges of LibraryThing for Libraries in high relief. David was also intrumental in setting up my keynote at the Irish Innovative Users Group. David's current passion is the WIT Institutional Repository, about which he gave a talk at the IIUG.

It's good to see LibraryThing for Libraries operating in a different context. While something like romance comes up fairly light at WIT, their holdings in tags like engineering and programming dazzle, and really give our suggestion algorithms a work-out!

Deschutes Public Library of Deschutes County in Oregon. Our largest library so far! Deschutes has five branches serving 140,000 patrons, in the fastest growing area of Oregon. They have quite a broad collection, but my eye was drawn to Why cats paint : a theory of feline aesthetics, which suggests mostly cat books, of course.

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Blogger Deirdre said...

very cool. Glad to hear Waterford is doing something different.

7/12/2007 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Casey said...

Awesome. I've got Thing envy.

There is a companion volume to "Why cats paint" called "Why paint cats". I'm not sure which one I find more intriguing...

7/12/2007 3:24 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

So why don't "similar books" always show up. I searched the WIT catalog for The Making of the English Working Class and of course it came up in the catalog, but there were no LibraryThing suggestions. Am I doing something wrong?

7/12/2007 8:08 PM  
Blogger David said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/13/2007 7:28 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Jacob,

Good question. The ISBN on our page for that item doesn't seem to show up. This breaks the LibraryThing 4 libraries implementation.

So, that is a problem with our data and not with LT4L.

The thing that I did originally was a fascinating exercise. I loved the recommendations that LT was providing and I wanted to add an element of discovery to the search process of our catalogue, so I asked Tim, who very kindly set up a script that responded with an XML feed of lists of isbns of 'works' that were related to the Isbn of the item in the OPAC bibliographic record in question.

I had *such* a hard time integrating it with the catalogue. I couldn't just create a link with the ISBN in the query string anywhere in the page. I had to subvert a proprietary Encyclopaedia Britannica link to get my recommendations script (hosted on a different server!) to display in a split screen.

Using PHP, I began with pure screen scraping, which was hopelessly slow. Then I scraped all of the ISBN/Title records into a MySQL db from our catalogue which made it very usable in terms of speed.

Then, for added interest, I got it to pull thumbnail images in from where they were available. It worked well, displaying only such LT recommendations as are already in our catalogue. You could surf through the app following a paper trail of recommendations - all in the WIT collection. Each recommendation in the list had a link back to Library Thing's page for that work, to our OPAC record and to further recommendations for that link.

LTFT does this and more. It provides not only recommendations, but tag cloud browsing. It also can be customized in terms of appearance to a high degree. Lastly it can be integrated seamlessly into even the most recalcitrant and contrarian of OPACs, using special JavaScript magic.

It runs smoothly and is easy to set up. But, best of all, it represents exceptional value for money. We're really pleased with it.

7/18/2007 4:47 PM  

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