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Virtual Shelf. Created for The Open Library Project. Background –Visualization – Next Steps. Background. The Collections Visualization Group. Devin Blong [email protected] Jonathan Breitbart [email protected]

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virtual shelf

Virtual Shelf

Created for The Open Library Project

Background –Visualization – Next Steps


The Collections Visualization Group

Devin Blong

[email protected]

Jonathan Breitbart

[email protected]

We are 2nd year Masters students at the UC Berkeley School of Information ( Our focus is on user experience research and design and technologies for learning and collaboration. Our backgrounds are in the humanities and social sciences.

Background –Visualization – Next Steps


The Open Library (

  • The goal of making all published knowledge available online
  • Creation of an enormous wiki, in which each page represents a single book
  • 13 million+ books, 230,000+ full text
  • Book pages feature links to where the book can be found and full text when available, as well as reviews, ratings, and summaries
  • Our goal: help Open Library users interact with the collection in a way that utilizes the strengths of both digital and physical libraries
  • Annual meeting on October 26 + 27 (“Using Digital Books”) – Goal of 25 million books and 2 million full text online

Background –Visualization – Next Steps

initial research
Initial Research


  • Library of congress subject headings are very powerful, but rarely utilized by anyone except expert researchers
  • Use of shelved collections for subject exploration
    • Rather than finding the exact combination of subheadings, users often perform a keyword search or title search for a book they know is in the subject area
    • Users acquire the call numbers, then search the shelf for surrounding books
  • Serendipity is important in the research process
  • Library patrons also remember books in non-standard ways
    • Color, size, and location rather than title or author

Background –Visualization – Next Steps


Design Iteration

  • Task-based analysis
  • Heuristic evaluations
  • User prototype testing

Background –Visualization – Next Steps

prototype demo
Prototype Demo



  • The purpose of the virtual shelf is to allow users to browse collections or sets visually
  • Books appear as icons at the bottom of the screen
  • When selected, a book’s Open Library page appears in the Book Details section of the visualization

Background –Visualization – Next Steps



  • Physical dimensions of the virtual book spines are dynamically generated based on metadata for cover size and number of pages for each resource
  • On mouseover of the book spines, tooltips provide detailed information about the books
  • Color of the spines is still under exploration. Some proposals include:
    • Popularity
    • Derivations via cover image
    • Subject
    • Relevance

Background –Visualization – Next Steps



  • Users can select a book’s spine to see that book’s Open Library page
  • Once a user has found a book that is relevant to their interests, they have the option to add personal notes about that book
  • Users can save the book to a Bookbag
  • Bookbags can be saved as personal shelves, given titles, and shared with other users

Background –Visualization – Next Steps


Types of Shelves

  • The General Shelf
    • The general shelf allows users to see a book in the context of the collection as a whole
    • Equivalent to looking at the stacks in a physical library
  • Search Created Shelves
    • Users can view search results as a shelf, then sort and filter in various ways
  • Personal (User Created) Shelves
    • Users can save sets of books as custom shelves to share with friends, colleagues, or all Open Library users
  • Subject/Genre Shelves (under exploration)

Background –Visualization – Next Steps

next steps
Next steps
  • Continue to refine the prototype
    • Fix book spine titles
    • Implement shelf sorting functionality
    • Implement bookbag saving/exporting/sharing
    • Decide on how to utilize spine color
    • Prepare demo prototype for October annual meeting
  • Explore other applications
    • Because the book icons are dynamically generated, the Virtual Shelf can be repurposed for nearly any collection

Background –Visualization – Next Steps

next steps1
Next steps

Background –Visualization – Next Steps

  • Rebecca Malamud and Aaron Swartz of the Open Library
  • Mari Miller and the UC Berkeley Library staff
  • Eric Kansa, Tapan Parikh, Marti Hearst, Raymond Yee, and other UC Berkeley School of Information Professors

Background –Visualization – Next Steps