Want to be a Hardcover Librarian?

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

4 min read

One of the hardest parts about competing against Amazon and Goodreads is getting decent data about books.

As I write this right now, there are roughly 220,000 books on Hardcover that at least one reader has interacted with. On top of that, there are roughly 300,000 editions as well. Add on to that almost as many authors, illustrators, translators and narrators, as well as 40,000 book series.

Since we started Hardcover two years ago, we’ve focused on seeing how far we can get by importing book data from external sources. Whenever someone imports their Goodreads or StoryGraph library, Hardcover’s library grows a little bit at a time. Lately, we’ve hit a point where it’s getting tougher and tougher to improve our library without community help.

That’s where you come in!

Last week we launched our very first librarian features. Trying to create a system that allows readers to edit book data in a way that prevents bad actors from harming the system as a whole is an extremely tough problem. Wikipedia and Goodreads handle this by having an army of volunteers that maintain their book data.

We’re trying something similar – AI-assisted librarians. Here’s how we see that working using 4 different roles for Hardcover Librarians:

Everyone – Every reader on Hardcover can mark books, authors and series as duplicates. Marking these as duplicates is a HUGE help. Behind the scenes, we’ll merge them together and improve data for everyone. On Hardcover, a “Book” represents all editions of that book across all languages. We’re focusing on English for the moment, so if you see a Spanish version and an English version, go ahead and mark the Spanish version as a duplicate.

Appender Librarian – This is the default role that every reader who signs up for Hardcover receives. Readers with this role can add missing data to all books, but can’t edit existing data. If you spot a book that’s missing a cover you can upload one. If a book is missing its page count, you can add it. Once it’s added, no one (including you) can edit it.

Editor Librarians – Readers who have read at least 100 books and have an account on Hardcover for at least one month are automatically upgraded to Editor Librarians. Editor Librarians can append data, but also edit most book and edition fields. You don’t need to request access to this role, it’ll automatically be added to your account when you meet the conditions. A few fields are protected due to the impact editing them can have; specifically the title, description, and headline.

Librarian – Librarians can edit any field for any book or edition (and later on authors, series, etc). This role is only granted to active members on Hardcover who want to help improve our data. This could mean focusing on improving data just for the books you’re familiar with, or branching out beyond that. Every little piece helps!

Librarian Manager – All the same roles as a librarian plus the ability to see reports submitted by readers, merge duplicates (books, series, authors), and split editions into different books. Librarian Managers can make breaking changes and impact lots of readers’ libraries.

What’s in it for me?

This month we’re just starting to figure this out. Here’s what we’re planning right now. We’d love to hear what you think of this plan (join the #general channel in our Discord).

Librarian flair. Librarians and Librarian Managers will have a special flair that we only grant to Librarians. Whenever you interact with other readers on Hardcover, read a review you wrote or view your profile, they’ll see your super-exclusive flair.

Librarian Discord Channel. Librarians are part of the community that wants to improve book data. In the #librarian channel, you can chat with others with the same mission.

Donation Voting. This is a new one we’re planning, but I’m super excited about it. We’ve made a decision as a company to give away 10% of our revenue to book-related causes. This could mean gifting banned books to communities, supporting Dolly Partons Imagination Library, or any number of other amazing causes. At the end of each year, every Hardcover Supporter and Librarian will be able to nominate and vote (using ranked-choice voting) to decide where our donation goes. Right now we’re not exactly raking in money, but we want to get into the habit of doing this while we’re small. Even small acts of kindness add up.

How Do I Become a Librarian?

For Appender and Editor Librarians, no effort is needed on your end. Just use Hardcover and eventually, you’ll earn these roles.

We’re looking for an initial group to become Librarians. If this sounds interesting to you, please reach out to jules@hardcover.app and apply! We’ll improve the application process over time, but for now please answer these three questions. We’ll look over your application and get back to you.

  • Link to your Hardcover Profile
  • A description of why you want to be a Librarian
  • Anything you’d like to share that shows you care about organization!

If you have any questions about being a librarian, feel free to reach out as well. We’re just beginning the idea of a community-edited data platform, and there’s a lot to figure out. Librarians who join at this stage might not have the clearest flow or best tools available yet, but with your help, we want to build those.

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