A conversation with Beth Jefferson about reinventing the library catalog

This week’s ITConversations show features Beth Jefferson, founder of BiblioCommons, a company that aims to reinvent and federate the online catalogs of public libraries. She’s thinking very creatively about the social forces that such a federation could marshall. The idea is not to create yet another social network. Instead, she wants to promote the social discovery — and social cataloging — of books, CDs, videos, and other kinds of library resources. Social networks pivot on interpersonal relationships. A BiblioCommons-enabled network would, in a complementary way, pivot on those resources.

How would such a network achieve meaningful scale? Beth has found some data which suggests that if you federated lots of public library catalogs, the combined user population would rival some of the web’s largest sites. Enabling those folks to connect with one another, in the context of resource collections that share common metadata, would be a big deal.

The BiblioCommons software is only now entering its first trial phase. But you can see some of what it does in Beth’s presentation at code4lib, a conference for library technologists.

9 Comments

  1. How is this different than the music sites that tell you who else has the same or similar CDs? Jim

  2. “How is this different than the music sites”

    Well, among other things, libraries aren’t selling their collections of text/audio/video.

  3. “… libraries aren’t selling their collections of text/audio/video.”
    It is a long discussion about selling versus renting and how many sites that are looked at as selling are really renting in a digital world. A library is really renting. Perhaps with a charge and perhaps not. There are also many ‘social engineering’ sites that do not sell the items that allow upload (whether you own it or not) and encourage discussion by putting together people with like portfolios of stuff. Aren’t they sharing common metadata?
    Jim

  4. “There are also many ’social engineering’ sites that do not sell the items that allow upload (whether you own it or not) and encourage discussion by putting together people with like portfolios of stuff. Aren’t they sharing common metadata?”

    Well, there’s no federation of user-contributed reviews, for example, across Amazon and competitors. Libraries could be in an interesting position to do that kind of federation.

  5. I commend Beth Jefferson and her colleagues for forging this new path. Just recently I’ve been interested in ways of mapping the thoughtsphere to the geosphere using discussions about books conducted via videoconference.

    Here’s a blog posting I made on this topic on PCWorld.com today.
    http://tinyurl.com/397tqv

    What fascinates me more than the cross-country videoconference is the cross-town book discussion videoconference, though. What would it mean to move into a community and to immediately be able to view 5, 10, 20, or 50 book discussions with residents in that community? How about if you were able to view some of those book discussions in a community you knew you were going to move to in 3 months? What does it mean for social fabric to run into someone in a store and know about the books they like and why they like them?

  6. When I lived in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, the library http://www.mcmillanlibrary.org/index.shtml reorganized their check out infrastructure. One of the changes I love was moving the hold shelf from behind the circulation desk into the patron area. I was then able to peruse what the other patrons were requesting from other libraries. I loved it!

    Amit Gupta has an intersting search site http://www.amitgupta.info/E41ST/ that mixes Amazon and local libraries. After seeing how I liked looking at requested materials locally, I asked him if he could show us what others are searching for. He has that as well.

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