Monday, November 16, 2009

LibraryThing Tips and Tricks

Now that I am completely finished entering two types of books into my LibraryThing catalog (children's books and Montessori materials), I thought it might be helpful to pass on a few things that I found useful to those of you who are considering entering their own collections.

Some things to think about before you start:

1. How do you want to view your books?

Do you want to be able to view your children's books separately from the rest of your collection? If so, it would be easiest to create a custom collection called "children's books" and enter them into this collection right from the beginning. Don't worry, if you realize much later that you need a collection that you didn't create at the beginning and already entered the books for there are multiple easy ways to change it to meet your needs. You can read more about collections here.

2. Would it be much easier to enter these using a barcode scanner? (Answer: Yes)

LibraryThing sells them for $15 and they are available many other places.

3. Is the library call number important to you?

I used Amazon as the "source" of information for most of my books because they had be best selection of cover art. It turns out it is easy to change the cover art for any book. However, according to the help pages at LibraryThing Amazon is the least accurate source of Dewey Decimal information. They suggest that if accurate Dewey information is important to you to use the Library of Congress, or another library, as your source instead. If you have already entered all of your children's books using Amazon, don't panic. They are probably 90% fiction and fiction is "E" plus the first three letters of the author's last name.

Another thing about Dewey numbers...I don't anguish over whether a book should be E something or numbers...sometimes I override the computer's decision. I refuse to shelve Byron Barton's Boats with the nonfiction. I just made it E BAR. You'll find your public library has probably done the same thing. In the end, it doesn't matter that the Dewey is perfectly accurate, it just matters that what's in my computer matches what's on the book so I can find it! I already mentioned that I wish I had left the "E" in front off altogether.

4. You don't need to overwork yourself entering "tags" for your books. You have to change the way you view "your library" to do it (see tip seven), but as I entered my books Amazon automatically uploaded the typical "keywords" that you would use to search a catalog at a library for each book. LibraryThing calls them "subjects." The only tags I need to have entered should have been "Montessori specific" tags (Montessori subject or anything that links it to a specific material like a Continent box for example).

Other tips:

5. Yes, you can add things that are not even books using add books manually. This is how I entered all of my Montessori materials. This is even more fun if you know how to add your own cover art.

6. You can change the cover picture to a picture you took yourself, other choices from Amazon, pictures other users have used, personal favorite..."grab" an image off a web page. It is this last method I used to add photos for all of my Montessori materials. LibraryThing takes copyright seriously. For my personal materials I used the image that was put out for promotional use by the company I purchased it from and credited the company as the "author" of that material. Really I think it is free advertising for them if anything.

7. Learn how to customize how you view books in your collection. When you are viewing the tab "your books" make sure you are viewing by "list" rather than by "cover." If you are viewing by "list" There should be the word "style" followed by the letters A-E in your toolbar. These are pre-programmed ways to view your library. If you click on the little picture of a gear you can customize any or all of these to the way you want to view your books. This is how I discovered you could list (and search by) "subject" for each book. Right now I have style "A" customized to show me the cover, title, author, tags, subjects, and Dewey number for each book.

I'm not the best person for giving instructions on how to use a program. I have a tendency to just "click on things" to "see what they do." This method worked pretty well for learning to use LibraryThing.


  1. I've been waiting for this post, a big big thank you it will be very helpful whenI actually make a start on my Library Thing.

    Also not sure if this is anything and it will probably fix itself, but in my blogger dashboard reader this post showed up, however if I clicked directly on your main blog link (from the reader) it did not appear (your projects post was the last one there). I had to make sure I clicked on the exact link for the post in the reader....does that make sense?

  2. oh ignore that...I just realised it was your dates, sorry hehehe

  3. Sorry Kylie,

    I wish that Blogger would date your post for when you publish it as its default. I can think of a couple reasons why it is the way it is, but I hate that when I finally publish a post I've been working on for a couple days that I have to manually change the date. I always forget to do that and have posts lost a week or two back. Yuck.

  4. So how many hours would you say you logged with this project and how many books/materials did you categorize? I am in LOVE with this idea, and I'm deciding when (or if) I can do something like it.

  5. P.S.M.,

    Good questions, I am surprised I know the answers to them, but somehow I do. I started by entering 225 children's books in the database. I did this WITHOUT a scanner, I haven't purchased on yet. I searched by keyword most of the time. It took me one and a half naps...In real time that is about three hours. My sister did her daughters books and said she did it all by ISBN so she wouldn't have look over "choices" with each book because it pulls up your exact book when you do that. I have trouble with numbers so I did not do it that way.

    It took ONE nap (two hours) to enter in my 96 Montessori Materials. It took longer per item there because I had to search for, find, and "grab" a photo for scratch for each one.

    Labeling the 225 books took less than three hours. I did this while the boys were working in our school room to keep myself from "hovering." I also did some in the evening when my husband was home on days when the kids were driving me nuts and I did NOT want to spend the last hour of the day with them. I did it with a Dymo label maker (from Target) and bought clear label covers from Demco. My Montessori Journey cut her own from contact paper and I imagine that took forever.

    I am not going to do my personal collection until I have a barcode reader. This is because I have a desktop computer, not laptop and my books are housed in a different room than my computer. I brought the children's books in next to the computer because I was moving them anyway. I want to leave my books on the shelf.

    Another bonus of LibraryThing versus another program you would buy, install, and keep actually on your computer...because it this information is "in the cloud" it could be accessed anywhere with a device that has internet like a cellphone, netbook, iphone, whatever. You actually have access to your home library catalog in the library or bookstore if you have a need for it.

    I have spent some time (ten minutes here and there) putzing around with the program, cleaning things up. I still have to go back in and change all the Dewey numbers to match what I actually put on the books. Basically, I printed the printable version from LibraryThing and took that in with me when I labeled the book. Anytime I actually used a non-fiction catalog number rather than the "E BAR" or whatever, I circled it on the list. I just have to type in E whatever for all the books on my catalog.

    I'm sure you have many more books and materials.

    I know Kylie plans on doing ALL of her materials...videos, cd's, art materials, what have you... The time per item on those will similar to the time per item on my Montessori materials. (Which don't need labeling, so it probably averages out.) Figure a minute and a half per item for uploading without a scanner (I hear it takes seconds with a scanner).

  6. Oh my goodness, you're so dedicated! I can't imagine ever having enough time to do that, so I'm in awe of anyone who would roll up her sleeves and tackle this project.

  7. wow your response just scared me...I think it might take me a year to get it all done!!! I've promised myself that once I get our new school room shelving nothing is getting moved onto them unless they have been entered into Library Thing.....I'd best get started hehehehe

  8. Kylie,

    How much stuff do you think you have?

  9. So, can you print the labels? That actually didn't sound too bad, since I only want to do the books that I rotate in and out if the classroom library. Not liking the idea of handwriting labels, though. This could definitely be a last few days of school project. I'll let you know if/when it happens.

  10. The three hours I spent labeling involved typing the label into my Dymo labeler (this was really fast, it is only four letters most of the time). I did not print a list of labels and then stick them on the books. I looked at the book, typed in the label, then crossed the book off of printed LibraryThing list.

    You can turn your LibraryThing catalog into a list of printable labels. It is discussed here:

    I thought it would take me just as long, or longer, to match the sticker to the right book as it would to just glance at the author of the book and type it into my label maker so I just did it that way. My books were already in alphabetical order on the shelf. If I pulled it off the shelf and decided it should be shelved as non-fiction I got the number off of my LibraryThing printed list, typed it into my label maker, then circled the dewey number on my list so I would know not to override it when I correct my Dewey labels on my LibraryThing database (remember, I used Amazon not knowing better).

    I'm sure if you put some though into it first it would be faster to print the labels off the computer.