LibraryThing allows each member to create his or her own personal library catalog. Here in one place, easily accessed from any computer or smartphone anywhere, I can see all my books at a glance. It came in especially handy in September in the Exhibit Hall of the FGS Conference, as I pondered whether I had already purchased a couple of books (or had I just thought about buying them before?) All I had to do was pull the website up on my phone and check my catalog.
Using LibraryThing is simple. You’ll need to create an account with a user name and password to get started. Once you’re in, just go to the “Add Books” tab and enter a title, author, or ISBN number. In most cases the book will pop up in the right-hand column, and you just select it. You can search for the book in the Library of Congress, Amazon.com, or LibraryThing’s own Overcat directory. You can also tag the book with descriptive keywords. My tags include citations, family histories, history, maps, methodology, photography, resources, standards, technology, and writing, among others.
Best of all, LibraryThing (www.librarything.com) is free for accounts with up to 200 books. If your library exceeds that, you can choose an amount to contribute for a yearly or lifetime unlimited membership. You have the option of making your profile public or keeping it private.
There’s also a social networking aspect to LibraryThing, which I admit I haven’t used to its fullest. But it can be fun to see who has some of the same books as you do, and you might spot a title you want to check out on someone else’s list. You can make connections with other members, read or write book reviews, find recommendations, join groups, participate in forums, and more.
I’ve found that one key to using LibraryThing effectively is keeping it up-to-date. After spending the initial time to enter my books and tag them, I realized I had to make it a habit to do the same with each new purchase. So whenever I get a new book, I lay it beside my computer to remind me to enter it into my catalog. It doesn’t move until it’s in there. Works for me.
Now we’ll see if Santa delivers any new titles to add…