23 Things for Archivists

Thing 32: LibraryThing

Based on Minnesota’s 23 Things on a Stick, with updates and archival examples added by Kathryn Otto

Most archivists are probably book lovers, too, but are you a cataloger at heart? Do you enjoy knowing what others are reading? Does your archives or special collections have a collection of books? Then LibraryThing may be just the tool for you. Developed for book lovers, this online tool not only allows you to easily create an online catalog of your own book collections, it also connects you to other people who have similar libraries and reading tastes. For example, at least 190 LibraryThing members have added Understanding Archives & Manuscripts by James M. O’Toole to their LibraryThing libraries. Other books with the tag “archives” include Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Developing and Maintaining Practical Archives, Photographs: Archival Care and Management, and the entire SAA archival fundamentals series.

Note: Before continuing, it may help to set-up an account so you can easily browse these links. It takes seconds and will eliminate the “highload” error message you may get when trying to browse without an account.

Add a book to your catalog by just entering the title (it’s so easy that you don’t even need to know MARC format) or connect with other users through your similar reading tastes. There are lots of ways to use LibraryThing. You can view your books on a virtual shelf, add a widget on your web site or blog to display titles that are in your catalog, or join a group. There is lots of other interesting info, too. LibraryThing Early Reviewers provides free pre-release books to members willing to review them. Author Chat lets you ask questions of authors in the LibraryThing forums.

Libraries have started using LibraryThing, too. Small libraries are using LibraryThing to catalog their collections. Libraries are using the LibraryThing widget on their web pages to recommend books and list new titles. Being a non-commercial site makes LibraryThing a good option for libraries. According to their website, LibraryThing “is exploring relationships with libraries, to offer non-commercially motivated recommendations and other social data.”

You might also be interested in working on a Legacy Library project, or starting a new project if your archives/special collections has the personal library of a famous reader. The I See Dead People’s Books group is a community on LibraryThing that works to enter the libraries of famous dead people as LibraryThing catalogs, known as Legacy Libraries. Also see the Legacy Libraries wiki page for more information.

So why not join the ranks of the many archivists who have added their personal collections to LibraryThing and create your own library online. With over 60 million books cataloged, you’re bound to discover something new.


  1. Take the LibraryThing tour and learn more.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Add at least 5 books to your library.
  4. Blog about your use of LibraryThing. Be sure to link to your LibraryThing catalog on your blog. How popular were your books? Did you find any discussions about your favorites?

Blog Prompts

  • How can you use LibraryThing for your personal library or your archives’ library?
  • Can you see ways to promote your archives/special collection’s library using LibraryThing?
  • Any History Day applications?


  1. Add a LibraryThing widget to your blog or another enhancement from the More list.
  2. Explore another social network site built around books and reading, such as Goodreads or Shelfari.


  1. […] 24: Cloud Computing Thing 25: Tagging/Folksonomies/Cloud Tags Thing26: LibraryThing Thing 27: Directory 2.0 Thing 28: More Online Presentation Sharing Thing 29: More […]

  2. […] is thing 22 on the library list and thing 36 on the archives […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: