- THE BELL TOWER
The OWHL is proud to present its first student-driven collaborative project: Stacklife@NOBLE.
Stacklife is a virtual library catalog that enables the discovery of library materials by visualizing the vast resources of the entire NOBLE network as if they were on a single shelf.
The OWHL, like most libraries, is organized by subject. We use the Dewey Decimal Classification system, which gives each particular topic a corresponding number from 001 to 999. Each hundred corresponds to a major subject area: the 200s are religion, the 300s are social science, the 400s are language, and so on. Within each hundred/topic area, you can get more specific subject-wise, and numbers and decimal points are added to represent that. For example, books in the 900s are about history, books about North American history are in the 970s, but books specifically focusing on the North American Colonial Period from 1607-1775 will have a number that begins with 973.2.
The thinking is that if you are looking for a book on the colonial era, you’d want to see all those books together in one spot rather than hunting all over the library. That way you can peruse multiple options at once and choose the best one(s) for your needs and interests. The act of browsing the shelf is a research skill we emphasize a lot here at the OWHL. Once you have found a good book, taking a few minutes to see what is shelved around it can lead to other great resources. What’s been stymieing the OWHL is how to replicate that experience online.
Stacklife is that solution. Andover student Darius Lam, ’17, worked closely with OWHL Director Mike Barker and our colleagues at NOBLE to develop Stacklife@NOBLE, which offers users a way to shelf browse all the books in the network. That’s over 3 million items on one scrolling shelf you can see from the comfort of your own home!
In addition to that convenience, Stacklife also allows you to easily leap from subject to subject within the stacks. Below is the record for the book Age of Spiritual Machines, and it has two subject headings attached to it: Artificial intelligence and Computers. Clicking on either one of those would get you to other books about those subjects. Stacklife@NOBLE also features a community tagging system that allows users to curate their own collection of items and a link to a Google Books preview (if available)
Stacklife also translates the physical experience of a shelf browse. The thickness of the books in Stacklife corresponds to the book’s actual page length, as does the height. Another cool feature is heat mapping, which is Lam’s favorite feature. “It provides utility by telling people how often an item is circulated while also adding really cool color variety to the shelf.” The brighter a book’s color, the more often it has been checked out by other library patrons.
So not only does Stacklife promote serendipitous discovery and act as an alternative to the traditional library catalog, it lets users learn from other patrons. The heat mapping and tagging system is something you can only see through Stacklife, and this type of community-driven information is not something you can get when you’re physically in the stacks.
This summer project can now be implemented at all 28 libraries within the NOBLE network, serving tens of thousands of patrons across the north shore of Massachusetts.
You can start to use Stacklife@NOBLE here. It’s still in its prototype phase, which means feedback from users is essential to making it better. Please send your comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re eager to hear from you about what works, what doesn’t, and what you’d like to see. After all, Stacklife@NOBLE is as community-driven as the physical libraries it represents.