DigitalLit and innovation

A piece in the Currents column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Visit to LibraryThing can bring together readers and collectors, highlights Library Thing, the most famous (to me) and well-established book sharing site on the web. Similar sites include Revish, Bookshare (on Facebook) and Dust Jacket Review, all of which which I use, albeit sporadically. There are plenty of others, of course.

Library Thing has a strong advantage over these newer services in that many of its users are professional librarians. Katie Haegerle, writer of the Comments column, reads a lot, "but I don’t keep all the books I read, nor do I keep a record of them. I do, however, treasure my zine collection, both for the zines’ content and for their value as cultural artifacts." Katie describes her delight at discovering that Jenna Freedman, zine librarian at the Barnard College library (and subject of a Petrona classic post from April 2006) has catalogued more than 1,700 zines from her collection in her Library Thing area: …."my heart got a little fluttery. Each time I entered a zine that lives in Barnard’s collection, it popped right up, and all I had to do was click on its title to add it to my catalog. And wow, was that satisfying."

But of course, that isn’t the end of it: "Once my zines were added", writes Katie, "all the other users who have them in their collections got linked to my page. Some of these, I soon saw, weren’t personal collections but small libraries, infoshops, and other public collections that are using the site as a catalog."

DigitalLit is a column on digital and online literature written by Katie, appearing every other week in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Comments section. Previous articles include gems such as how computer science meets embroidery (a somewhat imaginative connection involving Ada Lovelace!); an innovative collaborative interaction between musicians, artists, writers and programmers, prompting the question of how new media can change the way artists work; and many more stimulating highlights from poems to podcasts and beyond.

The DigitalLit column is a great example of how a major newspaper publication can regularly stimulate its readers by interacting with the "new media" of bloggers and other assorted 2.0 types, and also showcase what’s lively and exciting at the interface. I congratulate Frank Wilson, the book review editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer who enabled this project, for his vision. Would that there were more book review editors like Frank (who blogs at Books, Inq.).