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Cataloging other people's libraries?

Librarians who LibraryThing

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Aug 31, 2007, 1:48pm Top

Are any of you so into LibraryThing that you've cataloged someone else's library for them? If so, whose libraries have you cataloged and how many have you done?

Aug 31, 2007, 7:46pm Top

I'm really considering cataloging my boyfriend's books (we live together, but our collections ares still pretty separate). It would dramatically skew my recommendations though, so I've been holding off. I wish there were a way to select which books we want to be used for recommendations...

Aug 31, 2007, 7:55pm Top

I've agreed to catalog my partner's books for him during my semestral break this October... well, 'I've convinced him to let me catalog his books' is more appropriate. My books are all cataloged, separated into fiction and non-fiction, and alphabetized, whereas his are... not. They're all over the house, on top of each other, and there's no way to look for one book without looking through them all. It drives me crazy!

#2 missylc: I thought of that, too, and decided I'd just set up a separate account for him. We have very different tastes, after all. He will only read fantasy fiction, so it's very easy to tell which book is his and which is mine. (Anything with dragons in it, bar Harry Potter, is his.) That way his books won't mess with my recommendations.

Aug 31, 2007, 10:35pm Top

Yeah, I've been considering the separate account option. May still do that -- thanks!

Aug 31, 2007, 11:19pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Sep 1, 2007, 12:03pm Top

The following happened prior to finding out about LT...

My then-mere-90-yr-old F-i-L was (and still is) a voracious reader. Most of his books are in his office -- a room that probably has less than 100 sq ft in it. I've only been married to my wife for six and a half years, and we visit her folks every weekend, and sometimes more often. One day I got curious, and went into his office and started counting the bookcases (first). There are 23 including the 2 in the hallway. Then, I started counting the books. Close to 2 hours later, they finally found me sprawled out on the floor counting the last (and bottom) shelf of the last bookcase in his office. He has a maze in that tiny room just so he could fit in all of the bookcases . At the time he owned almost 700 books -- and had read every one of them -- and has the reading journals to prove it. He wasn't aware of just how many books he had, and because the passage in his maze was so narrow, he rarely saw most of his books anymore. So, I told him how many books he had; he seemed pleased.

Well, when we arrived home, I was compelled to count our own books, because my house is easily thrice the size of his, and we have bookcases in every room (mostly tall ones, whereas the majority of his were 4 feet or shorter). I'm embarrassed to admit that we had less than 500 books (not including eBooks) between us, and we read every night!

That got me wondering about the mix of books we had -- how many duplicates (8), how many genres we had in common from prior to the marriage (11), etc....

I can tell you this because I started a spreadsheet and cataloged every book we own. Some would say I got carried away with it -- a bit of overkill, they say. I use 26 columns, including the weight and dimensions of each book, and one column with several keys to denote things like hard-cover versus paperback, and whether it's a First Edition, or if it's signed by the author, etc.

My wife wanted to show her father what I had done. I think I became the Golden Son-in-Law that day. I ended up cataloging all of HIS books, too. It took 3 weekends, mostly because of the cramped working conditions. He wanted only 3 columns, though -- Title, Author, and Bookcase/Shelf. He derives immense pleasure from just reading through the printed copy of the spreadsheet and recalling titles of books he'd forgotten he had.

We're both -- him, and my wife and me, are pretty much neck-and-neck, and it's almost a race to see who's going to get to 1,000 books first. Personally, I can't think of a finer race.

Sep 1, 2007, 1:01am Top

>5 edwinbcn:

Jefferson would be great. Well, anyone whose book list is available on the internet. Is his?

If so, we can split it up. Needless to say, I'll donate a free account :)

Sep 1, 2007, 1:02am Top

7: You mean donate a paid account?

Sep 1, 2007, 1:21am Top

Ha! Yes. I owe Jefferson. He let me talk at his library.

Sep 1, 2007, 5:12am Top

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Sep 1, 2007, 10:37am Top

"Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order", edited by James Gilreath and Douglas Wilson, is available in full HTML text here.

It would take some work to translate the entries into LT-friendly format since they're fairly short and non-standard ("Perizonii animadversiones historical", "Williams' thermometrical Navigation", "John's Bell's discourses on wounds, adhesion and amputation" for example), but it's definitely a doable thing with a little help from ESTC, Sowerby and her successors. There may be another annotated web-list of TJ's books, which would be useful ... anyone know of such?

John Adams' library is online here, with a 'browse by category' feature that brings up nice full records for each title. This would be a much less tricky proposition for cataloging.

I know John Locke's library has been catalogued, but I can't find it available on the web anywhere.

I'd certainly be interested in helping out with these if we can get them going.

Sep 1, 2007, 9:12pm Top

I think we should do it. LT is about good cataloging, but the real advantage here wouldn't be that—someone's done it. It would be knowing that you share 5 books with Jefferson...

Sep 1, 2007, 9:13pm Top

We'd have to make clear that asking him to join your "slash" fan-fiction club was futile.

Sep 1, 2007, 9:26pm Top

Okay, I'm getting all psyched up about this. (I took a look at the Greek and Latin stuff, and I could definitely help there.)

We need:

1. A leader, preferably someone with some knowledge of this topic.
2. The leader would need to come up with a few simple rules. For example, they would decide on some basic tagging rules, although I think allowing freedom there would be important as well.
3. We'd make a group for this. I propose "I see dead people('s books)"
4. We'd divy it by need. For example, I'll take the ancient stuff. I'm pretty sure I can do it justice.

I can't wait to put a special statistic on people's profiles—overlap with Jefferson. The Tag Mirror will also be extremely fun, and, I think, get some amusing blog coverage.

I'm insanely busy. Who wants to head this up? I don't know about you, but I smell a really fun ALA talk in this.

Edited: Sep 1, 2007, 10:09pm Top

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Sep 1, 2007, 10:10pm Top

I'm happy to help to the extent that I can, and will lead if necessary. It will be a handy spare-time project, now that I've got my own library fairly well in hand ... it would be good to get a group of volunteers going, I think amongst ourselves we could settle fairly easily on some basic tag ideas and divide up by subject area or whatnot.

Tim, it might be fun to try and do both Jefferson and Adams, both for statistical purposes and just for historical/literary interest - what do you think?

Sep 1, 2007, 10:26pm Top

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Sep 3, 2007, 1:59am Top

I'd favor cataloging them simply, based on the Gilreath and Wilson HTML version, not trying to redo the printed catalog. To get the detail we can link to the appropriate page from the definitive edition, on the LOC site.

The fun is going to be in the connections, not getting the bibliographic data perfect.

Sep 3, 2007, 3:10am Top

I posted about this on the blog. Let's hope that gets some more people interested.

Sep 3, 2007, 5:47am Top

I'd be happy to help as well.

Sep 3, 2007, 8:18am Top

Nice post, Tim - hopefully it will bring out some other interested folks. I agree that the basic author/title entries for TJ's books will suffice for our purposes. Can we go ahead and set up an account with username ThomasJefferson and get started? We can provide the password to volunteers via private message (I think it seems wise to not have that be entirely public to avoid, you know, rabid Hamiltonians entering 'unseemly' books or something :-). Tim, since with just author/title things will probably move fairly quickly, can you make the free, er, 'lifetime' account?

I'm excited for this, we'll have a great time! kiwimac, edwinbcn, great to have you on board! edwinbcn, I really like your title page idea - it might be tricky in some cases but where we can do it, I think it would look really neat.

Maybe once the blog-post attracts some more conversation here we can move things over to a group set up specifically for this purpose (with different threads set up for conversations on tagging, entries, bibliographic assistance, &c.). What say you all?

Sep 3, 2007, 8:37am Top

On reflection, I have reserved the account names ThomasJefferson and JohnAdams (in the hope that we can work on his library too). I'm sending the passcodes to those who've joined this conversation already, but please post here or message me if you want in on this project and I'll send them right along to you.

Sep 3, 2007, 9:01am Top

If there is any plain old searching/typing that a non-librarian can do, count me in. (Just give me lots of instruction.)

I love the idea.

Edited: Sep 3, 2007, 9:49am Top

Very cool idea. I'd like to help... if we're hosieing (hoseying? is that really a word?), I'd pick Chapter 30 (Fine Arts/Architecture). My German's good, French and Italian might suffice, though I'd have to rely on Sowerby quite a bit.

Plus, it's short - only 50 books or so. Good for the amount of time I have to devote.

> 15 here's your live link to the digitized Sowerby, edwin :) http://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/coll/130.html - thanks for posting it.

Edited: Sep 3, 2007, 10:05am Top

myselves, jjlong - excellent! I've sent you the passcode. jjlong, achitecture is yours.

I'm going to go ahead and set up the new group so that we can discuss tagging, further hoseying and other things over there.

New group: I See Dead People's Books.

Sep 3, 2007, 10:20am Top

I'd also be willing to help, although again I'm not a librarian. I'm pretty good with German, and okay with French particularly scientific/technical stuff.

Sep 3, 2007, 11:51am Top

Just for the record, I suggested doing this with Jefferson's library back on the old Google Group (before Talk).

Edited: Sep 3, 2007, 12:28pm Top

I saw Spinoza and (I believe) Locke mentioned. Nietzsche'a Library (or at least part of it) is also online. One of the great benefits of looking at the philosophical libraries is that you get to see who they were obsessing over. So, for instance, while we readers of Nietzsche tend to think of his relation to the philosophical canon (Plato, Spinoza, Kant) we find that Nietzsche's Library contained a great deal of neo-Kantian works that, in general, most of us would not have thought of and, indeed, consider 'minor' works. There is a great deal that can be learned of these philosophers through the perusal of their libraries. This is a really good idea! Thanks to Lola Walser (see message 5) for getting us to think about catloguing the books of historically interesting people; and to Tim for seconding the motion.


PS. If this system is a go I have much of the Nietzsche Library on a 'wants' list at Amazon. (These, of course, would all be English Language translations of books in Nietzsche's Library.) Just let me know where to send the Amazon file...

The possibilities for this are endless.

Edited to add PS and also kudos for MMcM.

Sep 3, 2007, 12:22pm Top

>27 MMcM: Yeah, I remember it. Ideas can take a while to bear fruit. Thanks for planting it...

Edited: Sep 3, 2007, 12:28pm Top

I opened this account in July:

Danilo Kis

As far as I know, it's the first (only?) dead person's catalogue so far.

ETA: Ahem. Wishing all the current and future LTers many, many happy anniversaires... :)

Edited: Sep 3, 2007, 12:49pm Top

Indeed, MMcM, I knew this had been mentioned before at various points (but couldn't remember where, naturally). Now that we've got the ball rolling, do feel free to jump in anytime if you'd like.

LolaWalser, you have set a high standard for us to meet - I'm sure we'll be calling on you often.

Sep 3, 2007, 1:02pm Top

Maybe Lola can speak to some of the rules she employed in doing this?

I started a thread over on I see Dead People's Books.

Sep 4, 2007, 4:26am Top

A fine project :-)
I have added description of it and links to it on my profile page ;-)

34Vacula First Message
Edited: Sep 8, 2007, 12:50am Top

If the information is already online in a text format, couldn't it be edited with some sort of field separators (a ~ symbol or something that doesn't appear grammatically) would make it easier to convert with a "find & replace" command from just text to a tab delimited file or something like that. The Universal Import accepts: TEXT, CSV, XML, HTML, RTF, tab-delimited, etc. 2MB max. Maybe people could copy out sections, make sure the individual fields are always in the same order, paste them into some sort of table software (google docs, zoho, etc. are free online and support group editing!) and then upload them?

Just thinking out loud - I've never really worked with the uploader, but it seems like it might work and cut down on some of the individual work.

Sep 10, 2007, 10:04pm Top

When you need someone to do grunt work, give a shout out. I'm particularly talented with find and replace and converting columns to do that kind of thing for you. Allow me to self-correct. I'm not talented. I'm anal enough to have played around with that kind of thing for fun.

Edited: Sep 10, 2007, 10:09pm Top

This topic reminds me of a an early discussion about putting accounts in to cover popular book lists. Is there some mechanism for that now?

Sep 28, 2007, 7:27pm Top

#3 I have my husband's books in with mine on LT. Those items that I DO NOT want to claim as ours I tag with his name.

Sep 28, 2007, 10:03pm Top

Not far out of library school I happened on a contract job to catalogue all the books at Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia. They had a pretty good natural history and ethnography collection of about 1,000 books and wanted to 'start a library' by cleaning out a large closet. They had tried to use an abbreviated Dewey to catalogue the collection, but couldn't figure out why all the books wound up in 971. Since my BA was in anthropology I thought this was a great fit. I had a portable Smith-Corona typewriter I bought for $40.00. I bought a bunch of 3 x 5 cards. They moved an old rug into the closet and convinced the old park rangers to part with their books for a few days while I 'catalogued' them, one of whom had a heart attack a few days later.

I spent nights and weekends in the basement of the museum (got locked in once!) and a few weeks later I had all the books arranged on the shelf by author (no Dui, thanks) and a brand new 'card catalogue' for them to enjoy, complete with made-up subject headings, main entries--the whole bit. Totally manual. This was well before PCs were invented.

They held a little ceremony to use the 'new' library, looked for the book "Indian Treaties" and couldn't find it. Distressed, they came to me demanding an explanation. I went downstairs, pulled up the entry for Indian Treaties, and pulled it off the shelf. There!

Of course, I always alphabetized word-by-word (ala World Book.) They alphabetized letter-by-letter (ala Britannica.)


Oct 21, 2007, 5:44pm Top

I love the idea of cataloguing Jefferson's library.

Even though it does skew my recommendations, I catalogued my husband's books with mine; we have a fair degree of overlap and shared books, so it seemed petty only to catalogue the books of his that I especially like. I've read most of his, and I prefer my catalogue to reflect what's actually on the shelves.

I do tag his with his initial, though, or I'd have to feel guilty about all the ones in German I haven't read and possibly never will read.

As I'm an archivist, I do a lot of cataloguing as part of my day job, and I do enjoy it. Which is good, since a lot of archivists seem to feel guilty about _not_ enjoying it.

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