Today’s entry is a sort of mashup of a library catalogue with a book-based social networking site called LibraryThing.

First, a little background on LibraryThing for those not familiar with it: Users (currently 945,000) create accounts; add books (choose from 40 million+ added so far) using ISBN’s, titles, or authors; review and add tags and ratings to benefit other users, etc.  (Actually, if you want a better description, go here for the tour.)

Basically, LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) is LibraryThing added-on to the typical library’s catalogue to make it more interactive and exciting.  (Again, a brief tour here.)  Libraries can choose to purchase either the Catalog Enhancements or Reviews Enhancements packages, or both.  (I couldn’t find any public word on the ‘Net, though, on how much either or both of them cost.)  Locally, West Vancouver Memorial Library (as well as 1500+ other libraries) is using part of LTFL, but I wanted to review a library using both the CE and RE packages, so here’s looking at Seattle Public Library (SPL):

When one searches for a book in the SPL catalogue, the results page looks like this: (click photo for bigger)

The links to the reviews from Amazon, LTFL, and NoveList are down in the corner, circled in red.  (I guess the link to Amazon’s reviews page for this specific ISBN is a mashup too, of a sort… And all librarians know of NoveList, but unfortunately you need a SPL library card number to access that, so I won’t go there.)  Clicking on the LTFL link leads you to a more comprehensive page of user-generated and highly interactive content, though, as you can see in this screenshot: 

You can easily see the tag cloud,  as many reviews as have been posted, readers’ ratings, recommended or similar reads, more detailed descriptions, links to more cover art, etc.  Most of those Amazon also has, and for free, but as a library user I like the feel of LTFL because it’s not blatantly trying to sell me something.  (It only links to the sites at which you can buy the book, like Amazon or Abebooks.)  Other extra perks: LTFL will also let you see the profile (with reading interests, other books reviewed, etc.) of people who liked this book, a “common knowledge” section with things like important character/place names or awards this book’s won, a link to possibly-relevant articles in Wikipedia… hmm, I think LTFL has thought of more than I could ever want to know about a specific book!  Obviously this much content does make for a rather lo-ong page to read (rather like this post, actually), but it’s arranged with the most widely-appealing stuff at the top (as I pointed out with the red arrows in the picture above), so it’s not too confusing to find what most people will want first.

So is LTFL worth the extra cost it requires from libraries, when enterprising patrons could go directly to Amazon and look up most of the same information?  Obviously some libraries have thought so, and the LTFL addition makes the social aspects much more easily accessible.  As a user, I like the looks of LTFL, and it definitely includes more social-networking, Web-2.0-type bells and whistles than Amazon does.  Thoughts or comments?

(If you’re curious to play around with LTFL yourself, visit the SPL catalogue.)