This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

October 5, 2006 - so you want to be a cataloger

You'll think I'm kidding. But I've got an experience for you that will change your life. And you'll love it: Yes, YOU can be a cataloger.

No, really.

I'm guessing that if you read this column, you love books. If you love books, the odds are very good that you've got books all over your house or apartment. They might even have started out in order. But they're probably not in order now. In fact, you're probably not quite sure which books you do have these days.

But that's about to change. Just follow these steps:

1. Go to Library Thing. You'll find it at www.librarything.com.

2. Create an account. It's free (up to 200 books), or $10 a year, or $25 for life.

3. Start looking for books you own. A database that combines some 45 libraries world-wide, including the massive Library of Congress, not to mention the files of Amazon.com, lets you quickly find what you want. Click on a match, and you've got a catalog record of your book. You've just started building your online collection.

4. In "list" or "cover" view, you can review your new library. You can search, sort, edit, and "tag" your titles. You can rate and review them.

5. You can find out what other people think of those books -- and what books they might have recommended.

6. Library Thing doesn't sell books; it just shares information about them. But once you know what you're looking for, there are libraries and bookstores!

At this writing, there are some 79,000 profoundly addicted users, and over 5.6 million books in the system. You can share information about yourself, too, and find -- who knows? -- your literary soulmate. Or at least you'll find people interested in the same things you are.

Library Thing will even pass along information to your blog, if you've got one. You can access Library Thing by cell phone when you're standing in a bookstore.

No less a newspaper than the Christian Science Monitor proclaimed, "LibraryThing appears poised to turn the cataloging of books into a form of communal recreation."

But you know what? That's what cataloging has always been -- the attempt to describe, as a group (of librarians, in this case), the fascinating world of literature. Just scanning through the tags or headings people give books tells you just how many ways we can describe something.

Like Amazon.com, Library Thing includes brief user reviews. Frankly, I like our own Douglas County Libraries catalog better than that; it includes links to the major reviews, and plot summaries.

But as is true with so many things, this isn't about competition; it's about collaboration. Library Thing adds a social dimension to the longstanding tradition of booklists. That's something public libraries have done in person for a long time. Now, it can be done online.

In a way, it's ironic. The trend in librarianship is away from so-called "original cataloging" -- where everyone is expected to create the cataloging record. In part, Library Thing fits into that; you grab what other people have done. Some in the library profession have thought this signals the end of a noble occupation.

But now you also get to add something personal, something that frames that record according to your own unique worldview. And that opens the door to all kinds of interesting new discussions and referrals.

Suddenly, to be a cataloger is be ... cool. Popular, even.

So, dear Readers, let's get cracking. A book uncataloged is like a friend not spoken to. There's work to do. Why shouldn't it be fun?

[Disclaimer: LaRue's Views, unless otherwise stated, are his alone.]

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