Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tips for Cataloging Your Books on LibraryThing

Before you skip reading this post because you don't use LibraryThing to catalog your books, some of it has implications for citing your sources as well. 

I prefer using LibraryThing to GoodReads for cataloging my genealogical collection (and other books) because I can be very specific about which edition of a book I own in my own data. I love being able to go into the exhibit hall at one of our genealogy conferences and being able away if I own a copy of a certain book. At this year's NGS Conference, there was a book available at one of the exhibitors that I was pretty sure was a newer edition than I had, but I wasn't sure if the edition I owned was one or two older. I was able to quickly check and discover that I owned the previous edition. I decided to hold off on the purchase until I read reviews that discussed how different the two were. If my copy had been two editions back, I would likely have purchased it on the spot. I've since read a few reviews that have convinced me that I need to purchase the newer edition so it's on my list for the FGS Conference.

Actually, the upcoming FGS Conference is the occasion for this post. I wanted to check to see which volumes of the NGS Research in the States Series that I owned and which I didn't. When I began searching, very few came up by series in my personal catalog, so I knew that I needed to search for each title individually. I began with the first state available alphabetically--Arkansas. I knew that the title for each begins "Research in" and then has the state's name. I did my first search: "Research in Arkansas." I didn't think I had this one yet because my direct line ancestors did not live there. I have done some research there though because siblings of ancestors and cousins have moved there. I was surprised to see that there were not more people who had the book listed in their libraries. I decided to click on the author's name to see if someone had entered the book differently. I had already spotted one misspelling of the author's name in another entry which needed to be combined into the correct form of the name. What I discovered is that people do not know what those of us who are library catalogers know! People were entering the book under what they saw on the cover rather than from the title page as all catalogers know is correct. I found entries under "NGS Research in the States Series: Arkansas" and under "Arkansas" (from those who had figured out that the first part was a series and should be entered differently). The proper title on all these titles begins "Research In . . ." so the correct form was Research in Arkansas.

Tip 1: Always enter your title information from the title page of the source rather than the cover (unless there is no title page).

Obviously I wanted to be able to locate my book by series so that I could quickly find which ones in the series I had and which I was lacking. The problem came from quickly entering things on my part and not doing a step that I should have done when I cataloged my books. For those titles I had imported from Amazon.com, the series sometimes imported in parentheses at the end of the title field. These came up for me on the quick search. However, there were some that I had imported from libraries. The series field did not import to the place in LibraryThing to designate the series. I had just quickly imported these records, probably because I was entering all the books I'd purchased at the conference at once and was in a hurry. I had also not taken the time to clean up the Amazon.com records and move the series to the field for series which is located in "Common Knowledge." In "Common Knowledge" you will find places to include various information, but series is the first field there. Be sure to enter the series there if you know that the title is part of a series. If you know the number within the series (for series that use that designation), include that as well, usually after a semi-colon. For this series, I just entered NGS Research in the States as the series.

Tip 2: Enter series names in the "Common Knowledge" field designated for series. If there is enumeration in the series, put a semi-colon and the number at the end.

Speaking of data sources, LibraryThing offers over 700 sources from which to import your data. Most of us who are librarians like to get our data from library catalogs because generally the information is more correct. We only use Amazon.com when we are unable to locate a library source that has the title. I think a lot of us wish that Allen County Public Library was one of the data sources offered, but it is not. It would make life a lot simpler in tracking records for genealogy books. Obviously I don't have time to check each of the 700+ sources to determine which has a record, but there is a shortcut to determining this. I use WorldCat to locate libraries that own a title. I simply type in the title and/or author of the book and see which libraries hold an item. Last night I discovered that I had a couple of books in the series on my shelves which were not in my LibraryThing catalog. I needed to add them. They were the books for South Carolina and Georgia. I searched by title in WorldCat for Research in South Carolina. I discovered that they had the older edition by Hendrix and the newer one by Gilmore. I chose the Gilmore edition and found that 6 libraries had copies of the title: Saint Louis County Library, Wisconsin Historical Society, Tulsa City-County Library, High Plains Library District, Lincoln County Library District, and Seattle Public Library. I knew that Seattle Public Library was one of LibraryThing's sources, so I used that and was able to get the library record for the title. I then went in and added the series. You can search LibraryThing by ISBN number to be more specific. When you get to the page for the record, click on the link which will allow you to limit it to libraries with "just this edition." This comes in handy for the ones where the same author wrote both editions. You can also limit your search results by year and then to libraries with just that edition. One more tip about sources, some of the sources are catalogs that include more than one library. If you are looking for an academic library in Ohio, try Ohiolink. If you are looking for a public library in Pennsylvania, try Access Pennsylvania. There are several other consortial or statewide catalogs, so don't forget about these.

Tip 3: Use library records rather than Amazon.com as the source whenever possible. Use WorldCat to help identify libraries that own a particular book and compare these to the sources.

When you use Amazon.com as a data source, be sure to clean up the record. Move the series to the Common Knowledge. Make sure the author is spelled and entered correctly. Make sure the title does not contain a typographical error.

I was able to use Canonical Title field in Common Knowledge to help combine the variant forms of the title. If you ever run across things which need to be combined and do not know how to do it yourself, you can always post a message to the Combiners! group. There is always a current thread where you can post things which need to be combined. It's usually done within a few minutes. I combine some things, but there are some errors which would require me to add it to my library in order to fix it. I usually post those to the group so that they can fix them.

One of the things that I ran into when I was entering Research in Georgia was a problem with the way multiple authors were entered. The book was co-authored by Linda Woodward Geiger and Paul Graham. Some people tried to enter both authors on the author line. The correct form is to enter only the first author in the author line and to use the "other authors" field which appears after the Review field and before the publication date field in the manual entry form under "edit your book" for the additional authors.

Tip 4: Only enter the first author in the author field. Enter the second and subsequent authors, editors, illustrators, etc. in "Other Authors" (one per line, of course).

Next week, I'll try to offer tips on tagging your genealogy books.

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