Monday, 13 January 2020

Click on the Cat

Search the catalogue

This post describes the migration of an Access database to LibraryThing to make resources easy to search via the web platform TinyCat. I have written previously “Once upon a shelf” about the usefulness of this system for small libraries or personal collections.

TinyCat by LibraryThing provides an inexpensive web platform for small libraries. My local genealogical society has an Access database of resources. While this is useful, it is not web accessible and library solutions of web hosted databases are beyond the financial reach of our small volunteer organisation. To this end I have been uploading  our resources to LibraryThing to make them easy to search. LibraryThing  has a universal import function that accepts a wide range of file formats.
The process involved several steps but is simple enough for anyone with basic computer skills.
  1. Export local records from Access (any database)  to Excel (any spreadsheet) – skip this step if your records are already in a spreadsheet!
  2. Download the sample csv from LibraryThing
  3. Delete any fields not needed in the sample csv – we did not need Rating, Review or Date read as none of those were part of our database.
  4. Reorder the data columns to match the sample csv columns
  5. Insert the header row from the sample csv – the 7 fields used  - 'TITLE' | 'AUTHOR (last, first)' | 'DATE' | 'ISBN' | 'PUBLICATION INFO' | 'TAGS' | 'CALL NUMBER'
  6. Save the file as a csv with a meaningful title –  I chose to upload limited sections of data  progressively e.g. 200 records at a time.
  7. Upload at Import records.  The upload scans the file for valid ISBNs then identifies those records that have no ISBNs and asks for confirmation on how to proceed. LibraryThing does accept titles without ISBNs.
  8. Choose the most relevant cataloguing sources for your data. I chose to have LibraryThing search for the records firstly at the National Library of Australia, then the State Library of Queensland and the British Library. There are hundreds of reliable sources to find the books and other resources.
By uploading only a small portion of records, the data was usually processed within half an hour. I then checked each upload to see if all records had been processed or if a few needed to be edited or added manually. LibraryThing adds Dewey numbers and Subject Headings so we used the Tags field for our local subjects. The tags data needs editing but that is easy to do in LibraryThing with bulk edit.

While the process of uploading all our data is not yet complete, our online catalogue is now available for anyone to search. Still to be added – local Queensland resources, Journals and maps. Most of our CDs have been migrated to our internal data library.

At TinyCat I then set up preferences for what data appears on the home page and the search pages. LibraryThing’s YouTube channel has plenty of short videos on how to set up TinyCat features for the intended audience.

Future plans – later in the year we may add patrons and use the built in loans function, but first we’ll finish adding and tidying up the data. Here's our work in progress.

Cooroy-Noosa Genealogical & Historical Group TinyCat – Profile on LibraryThing
How to search our catalogue – a short screencast guide

Some small Australian libraries using LibraryThing and TinyCat

The profile links for these libraries show the variety of ways in which data can be structured, by collections, tags and media. The first link in each line is the TinyCat platform.


affordable, web interface
easy to add resources
Professional cataloguing data from hundreds of the world's libraries
built in circulation model
TinyCat features are adaptable to individual libraries - choose the fields you want displayed, edit the home page


A minor one but may be important for your organisation - No data field for purchase price, we'll keep this data elsewhere.

If your volunteer organisation has less than 20 000 records,TinyCat by LibraryThing may provide you with a cheap but professional online catalogue. I have no affiliation with LibraryThing other than being a satisfied personal user since 2006.

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Friday, 29 November 2019

10 years on

10 years on

On Monday 30 November 2009 I wrote my first blog post about the generosity of librarians who curate and share a wide range of resources. Ten years later and now retired, I still find much to read and share from those in the librarian sector. My posts are irregular but the beauty of blogging is in the longer form of content, more than a tweet, more than a picture on Instagram, less fleeting than Facebook. My original title Library Currants reflected my idea of providing small bites of hopefully useful information. Over time this blog has morphed more into a random collection of articles that I think might be of interest to others usually with a touch of “did you know about this” or “did you know how to do this.”

The world of blogging has connected me with a wide range of people throughout the years many of whom I continue to follow and learn from their wisdom. I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from Richard Byrne’s friendly advice at Free Tech for Teachers and Tim Sherratt’s explorations of the possibilities of digital collections. Dozens of other bloggers continue to  inspire. I use Feedly to gather the blogs and sites I want to read.

My family history interests have opened up a world of genealogy bloggers who share their tips and tricks. Just this week a referral from Dick Eastman’s Online newsletter sent me to a previously ‘unknown by me’ tool on Randy Major’s site. His most recent post Have you tried AncestorSearch on Google Search for searching for ancestors (or living people) lately? makes clever use of Google search advanced features. The tool AncestorSearch compiles a range of possibilities for the names that are input. Head over there and do try it out.

I used AncestorSearch to look for great grandparents Edward Smyth and Margaret Byrne. Yes, I already have quite a lot of information about them but was interested to see if anything else would be revealed. When the full Google search is run, the first result is a blog post I wrote on my family history blog over at Earlier Years.

No surprises there, but further down the results page is a Flickr reference to a stained glass window in their memory. While I have a similar photo taken with my phone, this one is so much better but I would never have found it by searching on Flickr.
Smyth memorial window - Tarlee Catholic church
Detail from Smyth memorial window - Tarlee Catholic Church (my version)
In the Flickr album photographer aquilareen has added all the photos of the windows in the Tarlee Catholic Church and some details of the families that can be found in Trove. In the comments section of these photos I have now added the links to my blog posts about some of those families the windows commemorate. So from a blog referral to a tool to a picture and back to my family history blog.

10 years on, still learning, still blogging. What joys has blogging brought to your life?

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

An essential tool for family history bloggers

Is your blog print friendly?

If you have a Blogger blog consider installing a Print Friendly button for those who wish to save your posts or indeed for you to save your own posts to PDF.

Not all browsers have a reading mode to remove the annoying distractions found on many blogs, and not all readers will have a PrintFriendly extension installed on their browser. Many bloggers use Adsense to generate some income. The PrintFriendly button allows your reader to save a post without that extraneous content. It also removes the sidebar and any gadgets contained therein.
  1. In the Layout mode from your Blogger dashboard choose the area where you want to insert the Print Friendly button. On this blog, I have chosen to insert it at the bottom of the post in the Footer area.
  2. Add gadget - choose the HTML/Javascript gadget

  3. Head over to and choose the style of button you want to add.
  4. Select the features you require, decide whether to allow click to delete sections or not, then copy the code generated into the blogger gadget and save.
  5. Save the Layout and choose a post from your blog to view. It will now display your chosen button.
Here's how the heading of a PrintFriendly page appears from one of my recent posts. Notice the choice of text size and image size. Image size can be set to 0 to remove all images.

Once the PrintFriendly page has been generated, hover over individual paragraphs or headings to reveal the bin to delete any sections not needed in the print or PDF version. This only works if you made that selection before copying the code. I have it disabled on this blog.
Do experiment and test what works best for you.

To view an alternate PrintFriendly button head over to my family history blog, Earlier Years or view the PrintFriendly button inserted in the sidebar in Just at Tarlee.


  • If the button is installed in the footer area of the page, it displays at the bottom of all the posts you have chosen to have display. To determine how many posts show on your main page go to Settings | Posts and Comments | Show at most and select the desired number.  It will always display when an individual post link is selected.
  • If the button is installed in the Sidebar it is always visible, but will print all the posts you have chosen to display.

For your own use, consider installing the free PrintFriendly extension for Chrome and simply click on it when you visit one of those annoying sites with dozens of advertisements.

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