Last updated
LibraryThing Logo medium.png
Type of site
Catalog and community
Created byTim Spalding
Alexa rankIncrease2.svg 23,972 (October 2018) [1]
RegistrationFree with upgrade option
LaunchedAugust 29, 2005
Current statusActive

LibraryThing is a social cataloging web application for storing and sharing book catalogs and various types of book metadata. It is used by authors, individuals, libraries, and publishers.


Based in Portland, Maine, [2] LibraryThing was developed by Tim Spalding and went live on August 29, 2005. As of June 2019, it has over 2,400,000 users and over 135 million books catalogued. [3]


The primary feature of LibraryThing ("LT") is the cataloging of books, movies, music and other media by importing data from libraries through Z39.50 connections and from six stores. Library sources supply Dublin Core and MARC records to LT; users can import information from over 2000 libraries, including the British Library, Canadian National Catalogue, Library of Congress, National Library of Australia, and Yale University. [4] Should a record not be available from any of these sources, it is also possible to input the book information manually via a blank form. [5]

Each work may comprise different editions, translations, printings, audio versions, etc. Members are encouraged to add publicly visible reviews, descriptions, Common Knowledge and other information about a work; ratings, collections and tags help categorization. Discussion in the forums is also encouraged.

Items are classified using the Melvil Decimal System, based on the out-of-copyright 1922 edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification with modifications for standard spelling of division names (as opposed to the original names, which were spelled in accordance with Dewey's advocated spelling reforms), and modernised terminology. [6]

Social features

LibraryThing's social features have been compared to bookmark manager [7] and the collaborative music service [8] Similar book cataloging sites include aNobii, BookLikes, Goodreads, Libib, Shelfari [now merged with Goodreads], and weRead. [9]


In 2016 LibraryThing launched TinyCat, an OPAC designed for the cataloging and circulation of libraries of up to 20,000 items. [10] TinyCat is marketed towards small independent libraries, such as schools, community centers, religious institutions, academic departments, as well as individuals. [11]


LibraryThing is majority owned by founder Tim Spalding. [12] Online bookseller AbeBooks (now owned by Amazon) bought a 40% share in LibraryThing in May 2006 for an undisclosed sum. [13] In January 2009, Cambridge Information Group acquired a minority stake in the company, and their subsidiary Bowker became the official distributor to libraries. [12]


At the end of June 2006, LibraryThing was subject to the Slashdot effect from a Wall Street Journal article. [14] The site's developers added servers to compensate for the increased traffic. In December of the same year, the site received yet more attention from Slashdot over its UnSuggester feature, which draws suggestions from books least likely to appear in the same catalog as a given book. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dewey Decimal Classification Library classification system

The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), colloquially the Dewey Decimal System, is a proprietary library classification system first published in the United States by Melvil Dewey in 1876. Originally described in a four-page pamphlet, it has been expanded to multiple volumes and revised through 23 major editions, the latest printed in 2011. It is also available in an abridged version suitable for smaller libraries. OCLC, a non-profit cooperative that serves libraries, currently maintains the system and licenses online access to WebDewey, a continuously updated version for catalogers.

The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is a system of library classification developed by the Library of Congress. It is used by most research and academic libraries in the U.S. and several other countries.

Melvil Dewey American librarian and educator

Melville Louis Kossuth "Melvil" Dewey was an American librarian and educator, inventor of the Dewey Decimal system of library classification, and a founder of the Lake Placid Club.

Library catalog Register of bibliographic items

A library catalog is a register of all bibliographic items found in a library or group of libraries, such as a network of libraries at several locations. A bibliographic item can be any information entity that is considered library material, or a group of library materials, or linked from the catalog as far as it is relevant to the catalog and to the users (patrons) of the library.

An online public access catalog is an online database of materials held by a library or group of libraries. Users search in library catalog principally to locate books and other material available at a library. In simple language it is an electronic version of the card catalog. OPAC is the gateway to library's collection.

OCLC global library cooperative

OCLC, Inc., doing business as OCLC, is an American nonprofit cooperative organization "dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world's information and reducing information costs". It was founded in 1967 as the Ohio College Library Center, then became the Online Computer Library Center as it expanded. In 2017, the name was formally changed to OCLC, Inc. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the largest online public access catalog (OPAC) in the world. OCLC is funded mainly by the fees that libraries have to pay for its services. OCLC also maintains the Dewey Decimal Classification system.

AbeBooks Amazon subsidiary online marketplace

AbeBooks is an e-commerce global online marketplace with seven websites that offer books, fine art, and collectables from sellers in over 50 countries. Launched in 1996, it specialises in used, rare and out-of-print books. AbeBooks has been a subsidiary of Amazon since 2008.

Melvyl is the name of the online catalog of the University of California's library system. The Melvyl union catalog is produced by the California Digital Library — a unit within the department of Academic Planning, Programs, and Coordination at the UC Office of the President in downtown Oakland, California. Melvyl is named after Melvil Dewey, the library pioneer who invented the Dewey Decimal System. Melvyl is now supported by the OCLC's WorldCat Local platform.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to library science:

<i>American Libraries</i> Journal

American Libraries is the flagship magazine of the American Library Association (ALA).

Faceted search is a technique which involves augmenting traditional search techniques with a faceted navigation system, allowing users to narrow down search results by applying multiple filters based on faceted classification of the items. A faceted classification system classifies each information element along multiple explicit dimensions, called facets, enabling the classifications to be accessed and ordered in multiple ways rather than in a single, pre-determined, taxonomic order.

Shelfari Defunct social cataloging website for books

Shelfari was a social cataloging website. Shelfari users built virtual bookshelves of the titles they owned or had read, and could rate, review, tag, and discuss their books. Users could also create groups that other members could join, create discussions, and talk about books, or other topics. Recommendations could be sent to friends on the site for what books to read.

Goodreads is a social cataloging website that allows individuals to freely search its database of books, annotations, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions. The website's offices are located in San Francisco. The company is owned by the online retailer Amazon.

Fremont Rider American genealogist

Arthur Fremont Rider was an American writer, poet, editor, inventor, genealogist, and librarian. He studied under Melvil Dewey, of whom he wrote a biography for the ALA. Throughout his life he wrote in several genres including plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and an auto-biography which he wrote in the third-person. In the early 20th century he became a noted editor and publisher, working on such publications as Publishers Weekly and the Library Journal. In 1933 he became a librarian at Wesleyan University, eventually becoming director of the university's Olin Memorial Library and afterwards founding the Godfrey Memorial Library of genealogy and history in 1947. For his contributions to library science and as a librarian at Wesleyan University he was named one of the 100 Most Important Leaders of Library Science and the Library Profession in the twentieth century by the official publication of the American Library Association.

Richard Rogers Bowker American publisher, editor, journalist

Richard Rogers "R. R." Bowker was a journalist, editor of Publishers Weekly and Harper's Magazine, and founder of the R.R. Bowker Company.

Dewey Readmore Books resident cat at the Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa

Dewey Readmore Books was the library cat of the Spencer, Iowa, Public Library. Having been abandoned in the library's drop box in January 1988, he was adopted by the library and gained local attention for his story shortly thereafter. His fame soon grew nationally, then internationally, and he was featured in a variety of mediums, including Paul Harvey's radio program The Rest of the Story and a Japanese documentary about cats. His story became so well known that, after his death in December 2006, his obituary was featured in more than 270 newspapers worldwide. Dewey's caretaker, head librarian Vicki Myron, published a book on Dewey's life in 2008, entitled Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, which became a New York Times number one nonfiction bestseller. It was translated into numerous languages. She adapted it for two children's versions. In addition, she wrote a sequel Dewey's Nine Lives (2010) and that year also published a third children's book, Dewey's Christmas at the Library.

Miguel de Benavides Library library at University of Santo Tomas

The UST Miguel de Benavides Library, is the Central University Library of the University of Santo Tomas. The Library has been in continuous service and even antedates the existence of the University itself. Even wars did not interrupt this service and it has adapted over time.

Natale Battezzati (1818–1882) was a printer and publishing house owner in Milan, Italy in the mid- and late 1880s. He was a founding member of the Italian book-trade society, Associazione tipografico-libraria italiana, and developed a card catalog system for booksellers that influenced American librarianship.

BookLikes is a "social cataloging" website founded in June 2011 by Dawid Piaskowski, a software engineer, e-business analyst and entrepreneur, and Joanna Grzelak-Piaskowska, a linguist and literary scholar. The website allows individuals to freely search BookLikes' database of books and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions and discussions.

Evelyn May Seymour was an American librarian who collaborated closely with Melvil Dewey on the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). Seymour edited eight editions of the DDC.


  1. "LibraryThing | Catalog your books online". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  2. "LibraryThing – Send us money".
  3. "Zeitgeist Overview". LibraryThing. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
  4. "Add books to your library" . Retrieved 2008-06-03.
  5. "Manual Entry" . Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  6. Spalding, Tim (19 August 2010). "Introducing the "Melvil Decimal System"". LibraryThing. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  7. Regan, Jim (2005-11-09). "Do your own LibraryThing". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  8. Bain, Alistair (2007-04-28). "LibraryThing". Desert of Zin. Archived from the original on 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2007-06-20.
  9. Woodroof, Martha (2008-03-20). "Web Sites Let Bibliophiles Share Books Virtually". NPR. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  10. "Introducing TinyCat: The OPAC for Tiny Libraries". LibraryThing Blog. 5 April 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  11. Klein, Loren (19 August 2015). "New LibraryThing OPAC, TinyCat, Announced". Public Libraries Online. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  12. 1 2 "CIG Acquires Minority Stake in LibraryThing; Bowker to Distribute to Libraries". Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  14. Rutkoff, Aaron (2006-06-27). "Social Networking for Bookworms". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2006-12-15.
  15. "Unsuggester: Finding the Book You'll Never Want". Slashdot. 2006-12-04. Retrieved 2006-12-15.

Further reading