LibraryThing for a Departmental Collection

April 20, 2010

Last October, the UGA Libraries and the Department of Classics worked together on a fun and useful project: getting a searchable online listing of the books kept in the Alexander Room (Park 222).  This collection, managed by a graduate student  (currently Stephen Dowell) and overseen by a faculty committee, is composed of donations to and a few purchases by the department over the years.  Many items are duplicates of those available in the UGA Library – it being useful to have a spare copy of a volume on the same hallway as the departmental offices – and a few are unique.

The collection had been put in order some time before, with a simple classification scheme by subject (designed by Susan Curtis, the now retired head of Reference at UGA and spouse of Bob Curtis of the Classics Department).  There was also a database of the collection, using EndNote bibliographic management software, but this was not accessible to students other than the library manager, or to the public at large.  So between Naomi Norman, Stephen, and me, we developed a plan to harness the talents of the department and the  library and create an online ‘catalog.’

We chose the web service LibraryThing for our purposes, as it provided the best combination of ease of use, bibliographic rigor, and low cost.  Organizational accounts are available at a one-time cost of $25, and 5,000 books may be entered.  LibraryThing allows users to add books by searching nearly 700 existing library catalogs (including UGA, Yale, UNC, and many other academic libraries around the world), finding a match to the volume in one’s hand, and pulling the metadata associated with the book (author, title, edition, Library of Congress Subject Headings and call numbers) into one’s own collection database.  We ended up not using the non-Roman language features, but LibraryThing is available in multiple languages and scripts (German, Albanian, Greek, Pirate…) and supports Unicode for the display of non-Roman alphabets.


On October 24, 2009 we marshaled our forces and descended on Park Hall as a Flash Mob, with the goal of getting the whole collection into LibraryThing in one day.  The UGA Classics Newsletter (v. 23, 2009) chronicled our efforts, noting that about 20 members of the departmental community, including faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, were joined by 4 librarians for the day.  Many brought laptops, and some faculty and grad students worked in their offices or in the Gantz computer lab, while the core crew was in Park 222 and the adjoining classroom.


We got the majority of the books into LibraryThing that day, and Stephen and I did a little followup over the course of the fall, dealing with some “problem” materials (maps, confusion over multiple editions, Tunisian guidebooks not owned by any library we could find, etc.) There are nearly 2000 entries in the UGAClassics catalog at LibraryThing now (reflecting rather more actual books: we did encyclopedias and other multi-volume sets as one entry each).  As we entered books, we tagged them with shelf numbers (we gave each bookcase a letter and each shelf a number, so C6 means bookcase C, shelf 6, corresponding to a label on the physical shelf), subject abbreviations (AA for ‘art & archaeology’, LG for ‘Loeb, Greek’, etc.) and several notes about content (i.e. ‘latin text,’ ‘drama,’ ‘Plautus,’ ‘Miles Gloriosus.’)  These allow users to more easily search for, for example, all editions of The Bacchae in the Alexander Room.  Have a go at the catalog and see what we’ve got!  And if you find mistakes, please let me know.  (Click image below to enlarge.)


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