Sunday, December 13, 2009

Evaluating Websites

Was surprised when I opened LibraryThing to find that I was already signed in, particularly as I hadn’t logged in to either Google or Yahoo during that session. Then realised I must have closed LibraryThing without signing out a couple of days ago which meant Library Thing was continuing to track activity on the computer, regardless of who was using it - a situation I will be more aware of in future and one that could have impact at the library where patrons and staff may be signing in to LibraryThing regularly.

Under Help and Frequently Asked Questions (link available at bottom of each page) there is plenty of information about connecting, sharing and linking with others. All this, plus details of their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, is available before opening an account. The Press Info link under “Who is behind LibraryThing?” gives detailed information about the founder, Tim Spalding, and other staff members. Email addresses are listed under “Contact”, together with their postal address. LibraryThing states it makes book recommendations based on the collective intelligence of the other libraries which gives users a clear understanding that the recommendations have come from other users’ library lists where users tag and rate books.

About LibraryThing advises your account can be made “private” so that no-one else can see what books you have but, if you remain signed in when you close the website, obviously they have the ability to keep tracking activity without your knowledge. Whether they do is not known.

The Book Army was not as free with information about the people operating their website. Staff were listed by first name only under “Who are the Book Army?”. Site Terms and Conditions were clearly set out and it was recommended that their Privacy Policy be reviewed before registering. The Privacy Statement sets out what information they collect, what they do with it and who they share it with. Postal and email addresses are provided.

When suggesting the use of these and other websites to get an idea of what to read next, it should be pointed out to patrons that they have a responsibility to peruse terms and conditions before agreeing to them and that recommendations are made on a collective basis by other users.

My personal choice is It is evident from the title that this is a site where readers can express their own personal opinions and they do … some quite succinctly! It does not make any pretence at being a ‘literary’ site but is simply a forum for telling others whether you loved or hated a book and why. Anyone may access and registration is not required to post a review or comment. There is a link to this site through The Reading Experience tab on our website. I have found some good books here.

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