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

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Virtual shelf

Virtual Shelf

Created for The Open Library Project

Background –Visualization – Next Steps


The Collections Visualization Group

Devin Blong

Jonathan Breitbart

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