LibraryThing allows users to create a library catalogue for their personal collections. The catalogue combines traditional library data like ISBN and date of publication with social media features like tags, discussion threads, and reader reviews. LibraryThing is free; users create a profile and then start adding books to their library. You can add books by title, author, or ISBN number; LibraryThing automatically searches the online catalogues of other libraries (including the Library of Congress) and Amazon. LibraryThing pulls traditional library data from these sites and adds it to the description of books you’ve added in your library.
We think LibraryThing has incredibly potential with organizations that have small resource libraries or collections of out-of-print and hard-to-find books. Your users could easily search your online catalogue and then contact you or visit your site to borrow or read the books. Building the online catalogue, while a little tedious, would be a simple and impactful project for volunteers or high school or college interns.
Like many of the other applications we highlight in the Public Humanities Toolkit, there is a large and enthusiastic community of users. Periodically they turn out for Flash Mob Cataloguing events, where LibraryThing members in the area descend upon a small organization that needs help cataloguing its library. Folks bring their laptops, bar code scanners, eat pizza and catalogue until the job is done! Often the LibraryThing members are joined by volunteers from the organization in question; recently the Audubon Society of Rhode Island got flash-mobbed and digitized its 2,500 item collection in a matter of hours. This is an excellent example of a small organization reaching out to the Web 2.0 world, both as a way to accomplish a task (cataloguing) and engage its community (hosting the event). LibraryThing will help you organize a Flash Mob for your organization and even provides you with free t-shirts, barcode scanners, and laptop stickers.