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Canonical title, canonical name

LibraryThing aims to display the most general, common and accepted form of a work’s title or an author’s name. So, for example, we prefer “The Princess Bride” to “The Princess Bride (25th Anniversary Edition).” To get this common form, LibraryThing chooses the “democratic” answer–the title or name that is used the most on the site. The “Canonical title” and “Canonical name” fields are there for when this falters.

The goal is the most general, common and accepted form in the language of the site, not the most “correct.” Please note: At the moment, entries in the canonical name field are carrying over to all LibraryThing language sites, so when anything is entered in the .fr or .de sites, those canonical names carry into the .com site as well. LT staff will be making changes to CK-language handling shortly [note added 4/17/2011].

  • The Brothers Karamazov. The Russian Братья Карамазовы is generally known in English as “The Brothers Karamazov,” although both “The Karamazov Brothers” and the Russian title are arguably more correct.
  • J. K. Rowling. In English the author of the Harry Potter books is known as J. K. Rowling, not Joanne Rowling or Joanne Murray (her legal name). In Germany, however, her books are ascribed to Joanne K. Rowling, so this would be the canonical form of her name on

If you leave the field blank, LibraryThing will continue to use the democratic method. When in doubt, trust in that.

Names, generally speaking, should follow the MLA Style Manual, §§ 3.6 and 6.6.1, and Chicago Manual of Style 15th ed., § 18.41 (q.v.). Do not list titles (Dr., Sir, Saint, etc.) or degrees (PhD, MA, DDS, etc.) with names. A book whose author is named Edward Pedant, PhD should appear simply as Pedant, Edward. However, suffixes like ‘Jr.’ or ‘II’ should be included. To combine examples, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be listed asKing, Martin Luther, Jr.

Note: Canonical titles and names are not a solution to these three problems:

  • Library vs. Amazon capitalization differences
  • Combination problems
  • Multiple-author problems

The Canonical Title of a work should be in the language of the site. E.g. The English version of the site ( should have the English title; the French version of the site ( should have the French title.

Legal Name, Other Names

See Tim’s post on the LibraryThing blog. The format is the same as Canonical Name.


  • Dates should be formatted in the ISO-standard format: YYYY-MM-DD
  • The format can be shortened in the case of unknown data: 2007-01 or merely 2007
  • If there is some question about the date and you would like to show that then put a question mark in parentheses behind the date like 1600 (?)
    • If there is a BC/BCE designation it should immediately follow: 1600 BCE
    • AD/CE is implied if the era designation is not there.
    • You may use whatever form with which you are most comfortable, BC/AD or BCE/CE, the system will handle it correctly.
  • For dates that have only a rough approximation (birth/death dates for some historical figures for instance) you can use circa: c. 14th Century or c. 1350

Place Names

  • U.S. State names should be spelled out (Mississippi, not MS). Do not use state abbreviations. Don’t forget to include USA (Georgia is a country, Georgia, USA is a state).
  • If the name of a location has changed since the time of writing please use the name used in the work. You may optionally add a line for the modern name of the place (or any other names that it has been called). These extra lines will help for cross-linking items.
  • When referencing the city of New York it should be entered as New York, New York, USA [1].
  • If the place is imaginary, use (fictional) after the name. (Fictitious is usually used for fiction that’s meant to deceive, such as a fictitious account of how someone spent the afternoon, or a fictitious report.)

People/Character Names

  • Use separate lines for alter egos.
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde should be separate entries.
    • Superman and Clark Kent should be separate entries.
    • Do NOT list alter egos as meta data in parentheses. This may give spoiler information that some people do not want to know. For instance, listing Clark Kent (Superman) would be a spoiler to those who did not know that fact. This information should be listed as separate entries.
  • Titles (Dr., Colonel, Lt., etc.):
  • Nicknames should be in quotation marks, not parentheses. Parentheses mark the end of the actual entry, and would exclude the nickname. E.g. Tommy “Tip” Paine instead ofTommy (Tip) Paine because the latter will link to an entry for just Tommy.
    • Unimportant nicknames for a character need not be included. The entry should identify the character.


Gender applies to an individual – not a group of people. Therefore an individual person may be male / female / other (i.e. someone who does not gender-identify or who has-been/identifies-as neither/both). Anything other than an individual person would be “n/a” (this includes corporations and groups of people working together; even if all of the people are individually the same gender the group itself does not have a gender).

  • Male
  • Female
  • Other / Contested / Unknown – Use this for individuals who identify as other than male or female, or where gender is unknown or contested (e.g., a historical person or pseudonym).
  • N/A – “Not applicable”. Use this for entities that lack gender as a class. For instance, corporate authors, or any single name for multiple people.
  • Not set – “Not set” means that the Common Knowledge field for gender has not yet been set for this author.

See your library’s author gender statistics at .


  • Education entries should be Common Name for School (Degree | College or major | YYYY)
    • You may optionally add the city location information for the school to the parenthetical information if you wish to distinguish multiple locations for a school. The entry would look like: Common Name for School (Degree | College or major | YYYY | City, State, USA)
  • In the U.S. the most common name is the University level.
    • Example: Mississippi State University (B.A. | Graphic Design | 2007)
  • There is no decision on whether to include periods in the degree abbreviation. Is it B.A. or is it BA?


From Tim in the LibraryThing blog [2]:

Relationships. We’ve also added a “Relationships” field, intended to capture when an author’s spouse, son or other relative is also an author (eg., Martin Amis). So far at least, it’s only intended to capture author-to-author relations, creating author-page links. LibraryThing can’t be an all-out genealogy site!
The result can be rather fun. Starting from Isabel Fonseca, author of Attachment you can now go to well-known British novelist Martin Amis, to his well-known father Kingsley Amis, to his second wife, the British novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, to her first huband Peter Scott, a popular naturalist whose father was Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic) and godfather Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, great grandfather of Kevin Bacon (not true).

The entry should be in Lastname, Firstname format, just like Canonical Name, and the relationship should appear in parentheses. The relationship is who that person is in relation to the current person, e.g. on Isabel Fonseca’s page, Martin Amis is listed as Amis, Martin (husband) or on Hillary Clinton’s page, Bill Clinton is listed as Clinton, Bill (husband).

The Relationships field is not the container for all available co-authors. It is an appropriate container for “collaborators”, which expresses a closer working relationship than “co-author”. See conceptDawg, 2011/02/01, “Proper Usage of Relationships in CK?”, Talk about LibraryThing group.

Disambiguation notice

This field allows you to write a short notice to other users about the identity of the author or the book. For example, if you find that an author has written a book under a pseudonym, you can combine the nom-de-plume with the main name of that author. If someone separates the two because he has never heard of the pseudonym, you can put a disambiguation notice on the author page to explain why the two were combined (a weblink that proves the identity is helpful). See an example: Chris Ryan

Same goes for the work page of a book. If people keep combining two versions of a book that are not the same, for example “Alice in Wonderland” with “Through the Looking Glass” or combine radio-play versions with the full-length audiobook version, then you should explain the problem in the disambiguation notice. See an example: “Alice in Wonderland”


How do series work?

To create a series or add a work to it, go to a “work” page. The “Common Knowledge” section now includes a “Series” field. Enter the name of the series to add the book to it.

Works can belong to more than one series. In some cases, as with Chronicles of Narnia, disagreements about order necessitate the creation of more than one series.

Tip: If the series has an order, add a number or other descriptor in parenthesis after the series title (eg., “Chronicles of Prydain (book 1)”). By default, it sorts by the number, or alphabetically if there is no number. If you want to force a particular order, use the | character to divide the number and the descriptor. So, “(0|prequel)” sorts by 0 under the label “prequel.”

What isn’t a series?

Series was designed to cover groups of books generally understood as such (see Wikipedia: Book series). Like many concepts in the book world, “series” is a somewhat fluid and contested notion. A good rule of thumb is that series have a conventional name and are intentional creations, on the part of the author or publisher. For now, avoid forcing the issue with mere “lists” of works possessing an arbitrary shared characteristic, such as relating to a particular place. Avoid series that cross authors, unless the authors were or became aware of the series identification (eg., avoid lumping Jane Austen with her continuators).

Never add publisher series to the Series field, unless the publisher has a true monopoly over the “works” in question. So, the Dummies guides are a series of works. But the Loeb Classical Library is a series of editions, not of works. (You can add it to the “publisher series” field.)

Original publication date

The original publication date refers to the original publication date of the work — edition-specific publication dates are included in the edition records.

To include multiple original publication dates, simply add the distinguishing text in parentheses. For instance:

  • A work was first published in serial form and then in book form.
    • Add two fields; the first is “1893 (serial)” and the second is “1893 (book)” Talk, #55
  • A work was first published in English and then in Spanish.
    • Some people may choose to treat translations as simply editions. However, some people may wish to include in CK each “original publication date” in a new language. Use multiple fields, e.g., “1893 (eng.)”, “1895 (esp.)”, “1897 (deu.)”, etc. Talk, #52
  • A work was published in multiple editions, e.g., Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
    • Include editions in parentheses.
      • 1818 (first publication)
      • 1831 (rev.)

Related movies

  • Find the movie’s IMDB ID on IMDB
  • Create the CK entry on LibraryThing using the movie title, date and IMDB ID, for example:
War and Peace (1956 | tt0049934)
  • NB: This field pulls in some data from IMDB when search terms are entered (per CH, February 2013)

Awards and Honors

  • List each award on a separate line.
  • Use the same labels as previous entries (when appropriate). If entering the first instance of an award, use a relatively short label to limit the truncation of parenthetical information during browsing.
  • List all awards that are not associated with a specific work on the corresponding author page.
    • Example: Nobel Prizes should be listed on author pages.
  • List book awards on the work page (not the author page). Awards listed for works will eventually appear automatically on the corresponding author page (see Chris’s comments hereand here).
    • Example: Pulitzer Prizes, Booker Prizes and Hugo Awards should be listed only on work pages.
    • Exceptions: an award for a writing that does not itself constitute a separately-published book (for instance, an individual short story, poem or essay) should be listed on the author page (rather than on the page for each “work” that includes it).
  • For awards given in multiple categories, include both the category and year in parentheses. Omit the word “Best” from the category description.
    • Examples: Pulitzer Prize (Fiction, 1976) and Nebula (Novella, 2006)
  • For awards given in a single category, include only the year in parentheses
    • Examples: Booker Prize (1999) and Yale Younger Poets Prize (2004)
  • For books that were shortlisted or longlisted for an award, or books/authors that were award finalists or nominees, specify the status outside of the parentheses (so that they browse separately from the winners)
    • Examples: Booker Prize Shortlist (1999) and Hugo Nominee (Novel, 2001)
  • Nobel Prizes should be entered with the specific prize outside the parentheses, e.g. Nobel Prize in Literature (1945) (discussion thread here)


An Epigraph is a quotation that appears at the front of the book. The quotation can be from a real or fictional work. Some books give more than one quotation.


A Dedication is the inscription where the author names a specific person or group. Some books have more than one Dedication.

Publisher’s editors

The Publisher’s Editors are the individuals, working for the publisher, who have edited the book (in Lastname, Firstname format; use the + if there is more than one). It can be difficult to identify the editors; sometimes the author will mention them in the acknowledgments. It is not the name of the publisher; although as with all fields the publisher could be included in parentheses after the editor’s name. See discussions here and here.


The entry is the name of the person who provided the blurb for the book, not the blurb itself; the name should be in Lastname, Firstname format [3]. Names of publications don’t qualify [4]. If you want to include the blurb or other information, please do so inside parentheses.

LibraryThing members’ description

Book description

This field allows you to write a short summary of the work. This should be your own summary, not text copied and pasted from a bookstore site or other source.

Haiku summary

Try your hand at summarizing your favorite book in 17 syllables (three lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables).

See the blog post or the Book Haiku page for examples.


And most of all HAVE FUN! Don’t stress out too much over these rules. If you mess up somebody will be along to correct it.