Thursday, March 13, 2008

Library Hacks 2: Bonus Hack

(I need advice! See the end of the post for a question for readers.)

My post on Library Hacks got picked up by the official WorldCat blog (squee!). Apparently, you can also save lists in WorldCat, add notes about them, and share them. If you're already an Internet book geek, think LibraryThing or Shelfari.

I went ahead and set up a list on WorldCat.

I see two big advantages of WorldCat's service over the "social cataloguing" sites. First, it's free and is likely to remain free, since it's run by librarians and is used by many librarians. LibraryThing allows you to post only 200 books before you have to pay, not nearly enough for a book glutton and cheapskate like me. WorldCat has a limit of 250 books per list, but you can create unlimited lists.

Second, it allows you to find out instantly if a book is available at your library. When I get ready for my monthly trip to the library, I do a lot of clicking between my list, the Chicago Public Library site, and WorldCat. It doesn’t take long, but it is annoying. Using WorldCat to store my "to be read" list will allow me to eliminate a step and see immediately whether a book is available locally and which other libraries might have it. (I'll still have to visit the Chicago Public Library site to see if the book is available at my branch.) They also have a place for reviews, which, if it takes off, would eliminate the need to visit Amazon to see whether a book is any good or not.

A third advantage, which is important to me but probably not to most people, is that the books on WorldCat have been catalogued by actual librarians, not through “social cataloguing.” This means keyword searches work better, it’s easy to find all the books by an author (including any pseudonyms), and when you add a book to your list you’re adding the book itself, not a particular edition. (You can also search for a specific edition using WorldCat if you want to.)

And, of course, WorldCat lists obscure books and scholarly books that might not show up on mainstream sites. I can rarely find the books on literary criticism that I want to read on LibraryThing, Shelfari, or even Amazon, but a search of WorldCat shows me that some of these titles are actually fairly common and will be easy to get through interlibrary loan.

Question for Readers:
I read a book this week which I planned to post of a review of. It turned out it was pretty bad. If it was a best-seller, I'd feel okay about posting a scathing review, but it's a small older title written by a guy who seems very nice. It's also on a topic very relevant to this blog. Should I review it? In favor of reviewing: it might prevent a few readers from wasting their money or time on the book. Against reviewing: Is it really fair, or necessary, to tear down a book that's not causing any significant harm?


Kacie said...

I think you can write a review that isn't mean, or cause unnecessary pain/harm.

You could describe what the book is trying to do, explain its weaker points in a matter-of-fact but kind way, and offer ideas for what could have made this book a real winner.

Still, it's a tough call!

Scarlett said...


That's true, I don't need to be mean, and I wouldn't want to be anyway.

Still contemplating...thanks for the advice!

Sam said...

I think you should do the review anyway. And I'm curious about the book.

I have been using allconsuming to store my "to read" and "books I've read list". Had no idea that world cat had such a listing feature. The fact that it is maintained by librarians is a plus in my book.

Anonymous said...

Make the review. Criticizing others is what the Internet is all about, as it happens. Besides, I doubt there's many people who put forth a creative effort in the last several decades and didn't receive some negative review in some form.