Friday, August 22, 2008

On my list for next generation library catalogues - lists

One crucial feature that is missing by most library catalogues (and LibraryThing, to boot) is the ability to make and share lists of books. I consider it a crucial feature because I have this notion that most of our formal education consists of actively learning through works of text.

But there are other more subtle reasons why a listing making function is important for a library catalogue. For example, allowing users to create public lists of books is one of the few ways that readers can be connected with each other in a way that they can control.

Lists, I believe, are also an untried means by which collections librarians could share the reasons why they have selected some of their choices for the library. For example, some time ago the English Literature librarian at MPOW added We need to talk about Kevin, Vernon God Little, and Elephant (and others that I have forgotten - natch) to our collection because they were all cultural responses to the Columbine shootings. When I was collecting for science at MPOW, I actively sought out and acquired books on a number of topics (such as works about Tallgrass Prairie) that would be too narrow to properly represented in any of the traditional collection development policies. If I had the ability to create lists, I could group material together that were related but not necessarily represented by the same formalized subject heading.

Biblicommons does a fabulous job of providing users with the ability to create and share lists and does one better by automatically creating a "For later" list for each registered user. This will hopefully cut down on the inevitable "toread" tags. Although seeing a library catalogue filled with toread tags wouldn't necessarily be a sad sight to see.

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