January 17, 2007

GuruLib home library organizer

Thanks to Andrew Careaga of the University of Missouri-Rolla for bringing this rather interesting student project to my attention. It's called Gurulib and it's the same basic idea as LibraryThing, but totally free for now. I've tried it out a bit and it seems very intersting as it can bring in info from Amazon or various public library catalogues. You can also upload your own document for it to keep track of; although I haven't tried that feature yet it might be an interesting way to organize someone's self-archived documents.

Before I get to the press release which has much more information, I'd like to mention the University of Missouri-Rolla's Visions blog which Andrew manages. It's a very interesting idea for an institution to have a blog to highlight the research that goes on, to feature projects and professors that are doing interesting work. It seems to me to have a lot of potential as a marketing and recruitment tool. On the other hand, I'm not sure if many institutions are doing that kind of thing yet. Does anyone out there know of other examples of this sort of thing and how well they're working? If you do (especially if your institution has one), I'd really appreciate it if you could leave a not in the comments. I'm going to hunt around for some in the science/engineering areas and see what I can find.

Ph.D. student develops virtual ‘bookshelf’ to help organize personal libraries

(Web version of release || UMR Visions blog post)

ROLLA, Mo. -- Internet users wanting to keep track of their book and CD collections, create a wish list for next Christmas, or find the best deals for purchasing games, music and movies online may want to check out GuruLib.com, an online organizational tool developed by a Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri-Rolla.

GuruLib (www.gurulib.com) is an online cataloging service created by Rana Basheer, a Ph.D. student in computer engineering at UMR, and his wife, Christina Leung. Built around a program that searches hundreds of online databases, the website helps people organize their personal libraries by retrieving information about their books, CDs, DVDs, video games or software. The “virtual bookshelf” uses more than 530 public and university libraries around the world as well as six Amazon.com servers to retrieve the information.

Using GuruLib’s search function, registered users of the free service may organize information based on author, actor, director, genre and other criteria, says Basheer. The service also connects users to other fans through social networking components that allow users to view other users’ libraries, lend and borrow books, and discuss their interests in online forums. In addition, GuruLib lets users create “widgets” that allow them to share their libraries on blogs, MySpace accounts and other online venues.

GuruLib grew out of Basheer and Leung’s desire to keep track of their personal library, Basheer says.

“My wife maintained a database, but she had to enter everything manually, and whenever somebody borrowed a book from us, we had to write down the information. Finally, she asked if there was an easier way to catalog this information, so I created a program that used information that was already available online.”

He also saw the project as a research opportunity. “This is an experiment for me, to see what I can learn about computer scaling,” Basheer says.

Basheer started working on the project in April 2006. Within a month, GuruLib – the name is a combination of “guru,” or teacher, and “library” – was online, and Basheer was inviting friends to try the system.

With minimal publicity, GuruLib has grown to more than 1,000 users. “I have a couple of small public libraries using it, and a video rental business recently contacted me about using it to track its rentals,” Basheer says.

Recently, Basheer added a new component that should be of interest to college students. It allows users to upload and store their research papers.

Other features of GuruLib include an automated price tracker that can be used to show the value of collections for insurance purposes, email alerts to let users knew when items on their wish lists are available for a pre-determined price and a service that tells users what libraries in the GuruLib database carry items of interest.

Basheer is continuing to develop the online library service and posts updates on the GuruLib weblog, www.gurulib.com/_blog/index.php.

At UMR, Basheer’s studies are focused on wireless networking. He also received a master’s degree in computer engineering from UMR in 2003.