April 19, 2018

Tim Spalding | Movers & Shakers 2008

Metadata Man

With LibraryThing (librarything.com), Portland, ME–based web developer/publisher Tim Spalding has repurposed the library catalog into a social web application and, in the process, made cataloging fun. “LibraryThing brings into large-scale practice what the most visionary among us can only talk about,” says Don Yarman, assistant director, Delaware County District Library, OH—“folksonomies, crowd-sourcing, a populist concern for authority, and a cooperative method for constructing it.”

When Spalding first began fiddling with a prototype in 2005, he says he had “no expectation that it would go anywhere.” Today, thanks to what he calls the “fruitful tension” between LibraryThing’s cataloging capabilities and its myriad social features—e.g., members can make public their personal catalog collections, generate tags, write and comment on reviews, and recommend similar titles and alternate editions—some 350,000 users have cataloged nearly 23 million books to date.

Not surprisingly, librarians love LibraryThing. And Spalding is continually finding new ways to show the feeling is mutual. With LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL), for example, librarians can fully integrate LibraryThing’s social data into their OPACs for a more complete, Amazon-like search experience (to see how this works, go to Danbury Public Library’s online catalog, www.danburylibrary.org). They can now also opt to prepopulate AquaBrowser’s fledgling My Discoveries™ product with LibraryThing’s dataset. And thanks to the newly launched open source cataloging system MARCThing, which combines MARC with the Z39.50 standard and produces XML in an Amazon-compatible format, they are able to open up libraries’ data to a plethora of nonlibrary applications.

Karen G. Schneider, the Free Range Librarian (freerangelibrarian.com), says that “Tim has ported the fun of reading to the web and in doing so honors the best of our profession and suggests a path for its future.”


CURRENT POSITION Founder/President, LibraryThing, LLC

DEGREE B.A., History and Classics, Georgetown University, 1994

ALSO RUNS www.isidore-of-seville.com, www.ancientlibrary.com

BLOG www.librarything.com/thingology