Goodreads Librarians Group discussion

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Policies & Practices > an intro to being a librarian

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message 1: by Otis, Chief Architect (last edited Dec 13, 2007 03:15PM) (new)

Otis Chandler | 315 comments Mod
First off, you might wonder what a 'Goodreads Librarian' is. Initially we allowed everyone to be a librarian. Anyone could edit book and author data, add cover images, or combine books. However we found that while 99% of the people did a good job, occasionally you got someone who messed things up.

So we created a new status that we bestow on those interested in helping keep things nice and tidy, which has worked surprisingly well. To apply to be a librarian, click here.

We started this group as a place for Librarians to congregate and help make the site a better place. Early on, in this very group, we asked the hard questions and defined a set of rules for how to combine and list books, which we wrote down in The Librarian Manual. We suggest you start there if you're interested in helping out!

message 2: by Agung Dwi (new)

Agung Dwi Cahyadi (cahyadia) | 2 comments Thank you very much for the suggestion. It really helps me sorting and combining books here at goodreads. I just hope i'm not the one who messed things up.

message 3: by Saturnina (new)

Saturnina | 12 comments I didn't see anything specific in the manual about books broken down into volumes. Is it okay to merge these with the full editions or should they be kept separate to get different ratings for different volumes in the case of manga for example?

message 4: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (last edited Jan 25, 2008 04:31PM) (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
If you look at the sidebar on each "combine books" page, it says:

General guidelines
do combine:

* Different publications of the same book.
* Different formats of the book (hardcover, paperback, audio).
* Editions/translations of the book in other languages. Even though many translations differ significantly, we've made the decision to combine them all, and have people note the differences in their reviews.

don't combine:

* 2-in-1 books or boxed sets that include the given book.
* Cliff notes or other works about the given book.

So I think that's a no.

message 5: by Saturnina (new)

Saturnina | 12 comments What about abridged versions?

message 6: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
Those fall under the "different editions" heading, so yes.

message 7: by Lasairfiona (new)

Lasairfiona | 38 comments What about volumes that aren't part of a series? I agree that series' volumes (such as manga) should be considered separate books but what about volumes of one book? Many translations of longer books are broken up into multiple volumes because the translation makes the book even longer or cultural norms require shorter books. Should those volumes be combined with the main books or should they be left separate? They usually have different titles or subtitles which adds to the confusion.

message 8: by Raymond (new)

Raymond (kiwimac) | 6 comments As well how do we deal with books which are published in part but which make up a larger work?, Encyclopedias spring to mind here.

message 9: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
Presumably that depends largely on how their ISBNs were assigned.

message 10: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 332 comments I'd suggest an update for the Librarians manual on how anthologies should be handled as to authors.

How should these be listed?

Is Various the correct author? Ideally I would think that there would be some way to indicate anthology but at the same time enter as many of the authors as we can. Anthologies frequently have 20 or 30 authors but I'd love to know for example that Anne Rice has a short story in the Flesh and the Word Anthology.

This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments It's not entirely clear to me what the official GR position is (my two bits follows).

Most (although not all) anthologies have an editor who is generally given authorship credit for the work and libraries generally shelve by the editor (e.g., I have an edited scientific book in press and anyone needing to find it will have to look under my name, not that of a contributing author, if they want to find it). If there are only two or three authors who contributed to the work, putting them in the general author list might make sense, but if there are lots it's fairly arbitrary who gets official billing, so only listing the editor makes the most sense. If there is no editor, then I suppose one could list the first three that appear in the book. I personally think "various" should never be used if there is an official editor and generally should be avoided, but I know others disagree. While accurate in a general sense, "various" is specifically quite uninformative.

However, one could still put the full author list of an anthology into the book description which (I think) is searchable.

At some point there was an unofficial discussion/request for some sort of open-ended "contributing author" list for books, but I suspect it will probably be extremely difficult to implement. Perhaps one day, but there are certainly bigger priorities (e.g., "also known as").

Colleen (NerdyWoman) Kayter (nerdywoman) | 9 comments Most of my bookshelf contains romance and romantic erotica. This genre is particularly frustrating when it comes to anthologies...

First, several books are reissued in anthology form (i.e., approximately 30 of Diana Palmer's earlier books have been reissued in anthologies). The books are identical to the individual publication but it's impossible to combine ratings and reviews.

Second, I'd be thrilled to have room for more authors! Perhaps rather than individual fields for author1, author2, author3, this could be more accommodating by using a single, searchable, multi-line field that would allow for csv's or one author per line? I don't know how that would impact the book listings under the author profiles...

I might suggest that the database design team take a look at They solved the problem by creating a separate cross-referenced table for anthologies, listing the individual story titles under the appropriate author's name. There's a link to the anthology in the book detail where a list of all stories in the anthology can be found.


This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments There are two separate, but closely related issues.

1) Omnibus/anthologies which contain complete works published as individual books (or the inverse which has and is being discussed in other threads where a single large book is later broken into smaller segments for paperback or foreign publication)

2) Anthologies or collections which contain smaller works by authors which have never been published individually as books (e.g., short story or poem collection)

For the first case, my suggestion at one point was to add "Contains" and "Contained in" fields for each book which would allow some form of cross referencing and would make it easier to see how books are related an perhaps even allow for special combined ratings.

The second case is more complicated, because there is currently no mechanism for listing smaller works which have not peen published as individual books. I recall someone suggesting adding the ability to include short stories and poems a few months ago; I believe there would be widespread support among the user base, but implementation would be non-trivial. I think stories, articles, poems, etc., would have to be stored in a separate database that linked to the same author database currently in use, which was otherwise separate from the book database, but which would allow cross-referencing between individual stories and books (perhaps using some sort of contains/contained within system as described above). I wouldn't expect an addition of this sort soon (I'd love to be proven wrong), but we should definitely try to get/keep it on the long term wish list for GoodReads.

message 14: by Kathrynn (new)

Kathrynn | 189 comments I might suggest that the database design team take a look at They solved the problem by creating a separate cross-referenced table for anthologies, listing the individual story titles under the appropriate author's name. There's a link to the anthology in the book detail where a list of all stories in the anthology can be found.

I like that idea/suggestion!

It is a problem. Some authors/publishers include the same story in more than one anthology. Some anthologies contain portions of one or more series, too.

message 15: by Cherie (new)

Cherie (cheriepie) | 9 comments Hi Everyone! I'm a new Librarian here, and I'm curious on the consensus with regards to anthologies. . Just yesterday, I came across an anthology which I have on my own shelf: My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding. It was initially listed only with a single author, Sherrilyn Kenyon, with no other authors nor the editor, P. N. Elrod, listed. So I used the suggestion in the Librarian Manual about listing the first 3 authors that appear on the cover, the 3 "biggest names", both in terms of printing on the cover as well as book sales, and made the change. :)

However, the followup to this anthology collection, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon, took a different route, and instead listed only the editor, P. N. Elrod. Since I believe that the editor should usually appear there somewhere, for the reasons Michael stated above, I felt kind of uncomfortable changing that one just yet, even though I feel it should be consistent with the way the first book was done.

To be fair, the first book (Wedding) didn't have the editor listed in the author field to begin with, so the change I made to that entry didn't change that, simply added 2 additional authors. It's changing the 2nd book (Honeymoon) and actually removing the editor to add only 3 authors that I'm hesitant to do (especially since not all 3 of those top authors are the same).

The Librarian Manual does state to use the top 3 authors for anthologies, but doesn't say anything about editors, and I know a lot of anthologies don't even have or give credit to an editor. *shrug*


message 16: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 332 comments Can you clarify the FIRST PUBLISHED field? Does it apply to the book or to the edition?

The Great Gatsby was originally published in the 1920's (1925 is the original Copyright date shown in my copy) Yet the 1999 edition with an ISBN of 0743273567 shows an original published date of 1975.

message 17: by Lisa (not getting friends updates) (last edited Apr 19, 2008 08:42PM) (new)

Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan (lisavegan) | 2409 comments Stephen, "First published" applies to the book. The "published"applies to the edition. Hence the 2 dates for each book edition. Many books in the GR database need to be edited.

The good news is that if we edit a book to reflect the correct "first published" date and it's combined with other editions, all of the editions get their first published dates changed as well.

Edit: So I'd say your edition would be a published date of 1999 and an originally published date of 1925.

message 18: by Stephen (last edited May 09, 2008 01:29PM) (new)

Stephen (havan) | 332 comments I'd like to suggest yet another addition to the Librarian Guide.

When it comes to combining editions... Should we combine editions that clearly state a year? One example that comes to mind is What Color Is Your Parachute? The year is generally included in the title, yet every year's edition contains the same basic core material with a few updates.

message 19: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
I combine books like that. They're not any different than many of the other editions we combine -- and often far less different.

message 20: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (jenn_reed) | 18 comments I have a book in my bookshelves that is a French title and also comes with an English translation (not supplied by me). I note that it doesn't properly display the é in the title for the word: deliberé. Instead the title has deliber'E.

Would this be something that I should correct as a librarian? I don't want to mess up the database if I renamed it.

Alt + 0233 = é

This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments You can definitely fix that.

message 22: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (jenn_reed) | 18 comments Thanks!

message 23: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (jenn_reed) | 18 comments Fixed.

message 24: by Sara (new)

Sara (weisthis) | 48 comments I'm a new librarian and I can't figure out how to add book do I do it?

message 25: by Lisa (not getting friends updates) (last edited Aug 17, 2008 07:16PM) (new)

Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan (lisavegan) | 2409 comments Sara,

Go to the book page of a book that doesn't have a cover.

In grayed out text toward the bottom right of its description click on the "edit book" link.

When you get to that page on the top right you'll see a "choose file" and you can upload the photo from your computer or a website after you do that by clicking the "upload photo" link. The book should then have a cover.

Feel free to post another comment if these instructions are not clear.

You can also refer to the Goodreads Librarian Manual:

Edit: You may need to do some editing to make the cover fit perfectly. It depends on what size you have available.

message 26: by Heather (new)

Heather | 44 comments There are 3 or 4 versions of How to Massage Your Cat by Alice M. Brock that are listed as separate editions. I click "combine editions" and get "author not found". Am I doing something wrong?

message 27: by Lisa (not getting friends updates) (last edited Oct 11, 2008 12:10PM) (new)

Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan (lisavegan) | 2409 comments Heather, There's 3 very current threads in this group complaining of a combining bug that's cropped up since last night's maintenance/updates done by Goodreads. My guess is that it's a bug. Until Goodreads is able to fix it it looks as though librarians shouldn't try to combine anything because it's not working. Heather, remember these books because chance are good the bug will be corrected by tomorrow.


Oh, except that of course it's Saturday so Otis & Co. might not see this until Monday. If that's the case it won't be fixed until at least Monday.

There's now a few threads here and one at GR Feedback; Otis & Michael should at least see the GR Feedback one, but it might not be until next week.

message 28: by Heather (new)

Heather | 44 comments Sorry about that; when I went poking around the group I missed those threads.

Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan (lisavegan) | 2409 comments Heather, That's why there are so many threads; there's so many threads that unless you read them all, specific topics are easy to miss.

Otis & Michael & Company haven't seen this bug yet or they'd have posted. We might have to wait until Monday and then Monday overnight for a fix, or longer if it's a tough fix.

message 30: by Lee (new)

Lee (rainscent) | 10 comments hi guys,
*new kid want to ask bout combining books*

when I search for S.E Finer's The Man on Horseback I found there's 3 results, so I combine the hardcover and the paperback into one edition (the manual says ok), and then I found another one, with the same title, but the author's name is written Samuel Finer instead of S.E Finer, so I edit it and change it into S.E Finer, then I combine it into the edition previously.

is it ok?
I believe that it's the same book as the two first, but when I look into the publication date (2000-sumthing) I become uncertain...

message 31: by Cait (last edited Oct 28, 2008 08:38AM) (new)

Cait (tigercait) | 5005 comments Hi, ame!

When you find a book that seems to be listed under a variant of the author's name (like Samuel instead of S.E., here), if the book has a ISBN number you can usually look up catalog listings for it on a variety of websites -- I usually try WorldCat and also just put the number into Google to see what turns up -- which can help you figure out if it's a new edition of the same book or not. If it is, those are the right steps! (Often a book will continue to be reprinted for many years and list its printing date as the only publication date; that's why we have publication date and original publication date as two fields!) If you think that some people may be looking for the book under the name "Samuel Finer", you may want to put a note in S.E. Finer's author profile indicating that some of his books are credited under that name -- if it were a radically different pen name there would be other strategies (browse around this group!), but Samuel to S.E. seems close enough to me....

If you aren't sure that the two authors are the same, though, leave them as they are! If there is a Samuel Finer who's different from S.E. but happened to write a book by the same name, we don't want to lose that.

Edited to add: Also, you may want to fix "S. E. Finer" to be "S.E. Finer" -- the canonical form on Goodreads is to have no spaces between two initials -- or you may want to check catalogs (including the U.S. Library of Congress, if it has a record) to see if "Samuel E. Finer" might not be a better name for both "Samuel Finer" and "S.E. Finer".

message 32: by Lee (new)

Lee (rainscent) | 10 comments Cait, thanks a lot!
such an enlightment!

message 33: by Cera (new)

Cera Cait wrote:
> the canonical form on Goodreads is to have no
> spaces between two initials

Oh dear -- all the authors whom I've added spaces to in the last few weeks are now non-canonical! *blush* Sorry about that.

Could that be added to the librarian manual? Or if that's not the right place for it, could we have a FAQ that contains such information or something like? I searched around a good bit trying to figure it out before I finally decided that there wasn't a canonical form defined and added spaces to E. F. Benson because I think it looks better that way.

message 34: by Cait (new)

Cait (tigercait) | 5005 comments Oh, good suggestion, Cera. I'll add it to the thread about manual additions. Thanks! (I did the same thing when I was starting, in fact, and I never was sure if I caught all of them after I learned....)

message 35: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

message 36: by Cera (new)

Cera Thanks, Cait!

And Rivka, I'm really relieved that you caught it so *quickly*.

message 37: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
That was probably luck. ;)

message 38: by Laura (last edited Nov 25, 2008 12:09PM) (new)

Laura (laurita) | 2 comments So, this might be a silly question. The book Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres appears as Captain Corelli's Mandolin, probably due to confusion with the film version. Should it be changed, or left alone because due to the familiarity with the film, that title is probably what people are searching for?

message 39: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
The listing should reflect what is on the cover of the book.

message 40: by Lee (new)

Lee (rainscent) | 10 comments I did the same things too Cafetera =)

*sorry guys*

message 41: by Homunculus (new)

Homunculus | 5 comments Hiho!

I´ve got one question:
Many fantasy books were by the translation into german splitted into two books...
Should I combine these 2 german books with the english one where it belongs to?
Or how should I do this?
Can anyone please explain!
Thanks in advance

JG (Introverted Reader) | 470 comments If one work gets split into two or more volumes later, those volumes should not be combined with the original, one-volume work. However, a "volume 1 of 2" can be combined with a different "volume 1 of 2."

message 43: by Homunculus (new)

Homunculus | 5 comments Ok, thanks and greetings from my german library. ;-)

JG (Introverted Reader) | 470 comments You're welcome!

message 45: by Mark (last edited Dec 03, 2008 11:16AM) (new)

Mark | 4 comments Ok, it seems to me, thus far, that although we are to keep volumes of a collection (i.e. encyclopaedias, etc.) separate, that there is no prescribed method for the inclusion of the same ISBN No. in each entry (should the ISBN No. be the same for all volumes). Instead, what seems to happen (I say this as I have only recently applied for Librarian Status and am assuming that the book creation privileges are the same or similar to the powers of the Librarian: i.e., that a member of goodreads would be allowed - if such a possibility in fact existed for Librarians - to add dissimilar titles containing existing goodreads ISBN No.s) is that when attempting to add a dissimilar title to an existing ISBN No., that the attempt is refuted unequivocally by the goodreads database.

I understand that a temporary solution (at least) is to simply leave out the ISBN No.. Yet, it seemed intuitive to me that multiple titles for a single ISBN No. could in fact exist in the database, and especially for the purpose of future disambiguation (for example: an incorrect title exists for an ISBN No., therefore the ability to add the correct title by a goodreads member would a. prevent the need to add in the correct ISBN at a later time - and I believe it is a less time consuming process to disambiguate, having all the data set before you rather than having to search for missing ISBNs and come across several instances of books that never had an ISBN to begin with, thus requiring a grossly inordinate amount of unnecessary parsing, and b. would allow for a "way" - in fact the very same way chosen by the publisher - to group volume sets together while keeping the titles of the respective volumes separate and distinct).

I realize that this is quite a mouthful as it is - but I wanted to make this observation (with suggestion, implicit) to help address an issue that may have been until this time "orphaned."

Thanks for reading!


message 46: by rivka, Librarian Moderator (new)

rivka | 41028 comments Mod
Programming suggestions really belong in the Feedback group (at least, if you want to be sure Otis and/or MICHAEL see them). (I realize your suggestion is not merely a programming issue.)

ISBNs are the sole identifier the GR database uses, so having multiple items share the same ISBN would require HUGE changes to the existing database structure. Moreover, individual items that share a single ISBN should most certainly not be listed separately unless they also have independent ISBNs. (For instance, you can find both the individual Harry Potter books, and a single-ISBN collection of all 7.)

As far as not allowing someone to enter a book that has an ISBN that is already incorrectly assigned, that's not a bug. It's a feature. It will hopefully encourage the user to report the problem (it has in the past), or at the very least encourage a librarian later noticing the ISBN-less item to look into the problem.

message 47: by Kristen (last edited Dec 03, 2008 08:10PM) (new)

Kristen (ravenskya) | 17 comments New Librarian here with a question... if the same book is published under a different title in the US and in GB, do we combine them or leave them as two separate books?

message 48: by Cait (new)

Cait (tigercait) | 5005 comments Kristen, yes, since they're still the same book.

message 49: by Mark (new)

Mark | 4 comments Rivka, Thank you for your response. I realize that time and effort went in to the design of the back-end of this system. And yet I am not entirely convinced that the feature of not allowing someone to enter a duplicate ISBN No. fully serves the purpose ascribed to it. However, I suppose that there are several differences between librarians and database administrators - such that it may not be possible for a librarian to run a query for duplicate ISBN entries in order to investigate all the instances, notate them as duplicate entries for other librarians, and clean them up. But I do see your point. The amount of time saved in having to merely change an ISBN No. instead of correctly enter in the entire entry for the book in question if probably small in comparison to the man hours requisite to rescripting and testing the site's front-end to the DB.

Ok, enough computer-speak - I'll be good and post any further programming related topics in the appropriate channel. Thanks very much!

By the way, I noticed that you said collective works should not be listed separately unless each volume has a separate ISBN No. - but you see this can be quite frustrating when I have only a few volumes from the collection! (especially when the volumes are quite old and not all of the volumes are easily attainable in order to appease the GRdb!)

Well - please take my feedback into your kind consideration, and thanks once more! I like GR quite a bit - thanks for letting me come here !


This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For | 949 comments Mark, if we're talking about books which predate the ISBN, then the issue becomes quite different. Rivka was discussing a modern issue, which would only occur if (under normal circumstances) you could only buy multiple volumes as a single set and, therefore, the individual volumes were not given distinct ISBNs. If books lack an ISBN because they predate the common use of the code, then they certainly could be entered as separate volumes without any ISBN.

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