Open Library logo
Last edited by Lisa
June 4, 2019 | History

Editing Open Library

How do I add a book?

Click on the "Add A Book" link on the top of every Open Library page and follow the instructions. Add a little information or a lot, you can always come back and enhance the book record you've created later. There is a note in your editing history any time you edit something, which makes a handy reference for you to find any pages you've had a hand in either creating or revising.


Can I edit any page on Open Library?

Yes, that's the idea. You're certainly welcome to edit any record you see (author, edition, book), and we encourage you to! There, however, are some pages that we prefer to restrict editing on, such as the site's home page or someone else's profile page. The basic rule is, if you see an edit button on a page, you can edit it!


How do I edit a book record?

Simply head for the page you'd like to edit and click on the "Edit" button on the right-hand corner of every book page. Please note that some information may only be added to an items edition record and not the work record.

You'll see a page that asks for general information about the book (a description, subjects aka tags, useful web resources) and a way to add specific information about particular editions of that book (publisher info, pagination, identifiers from other systems).


What is the difference between a "work" and an "edition"?

Work and edition are both bibliographic terms for referring to a book. A "work" is the top-level of a book's Open Library record. An "edition" is each different version of that book over time. So, Huckleberry Finn is a work, but a Spanish translation of it published in 1934 is one edition of that work. We aspire to have one work record for every book and then, listed under it, many edition records of that work. The "work" data should reflect the original language, if that is known. To connect editions and translations to the work, you need to put the title of the "work" in the upper Title box in the editing page for the edition. The title of the edition or translation then goes into the Title box under "This edition."


How can I add an author?

Author creation is tied to the book creation. As you add a new book, we check to see if we already have a record for the author of the book you're trying to add. If there is no match, we'll create an entry for that new author. See this example from the edit page.

image showing how to select author form a pulldown menu

If the book is authored by one of the Carol Stacks already listed, select her name. If neither of them is the right author choose "Create a new record for Carol Stack"

Once you've created the new book entry, you should be taken to the book's new page, and there you will find a link to the author under the book's title. If you click on that link, you'll see a list of any or all books that author has written and a way to edit that author's page on Open Library.

It is common in the library world to use a "library format" for names, which looks like this: LastName, FirstName or Blyton, Enid. That's a bit of a hangover from physical card catalogs, which were generally sorted in alphabetical order. Since we're online now, and can do a search for either a first name or a last name or both, the need for putting the last name first no longer needed. For this reason, we'd prefer if you enter people's names just as you would speak them, in "natural order." So FirstName LastName, or, Enid Blyton.

Alternative names for authors are really useful too, so if you know variations or nom de plumes for people, please go ahead and add them to the author's page. Variations in different languages are also very useful!


How do I format a new author name?

Making Open Library easy to edit is a high priority, so author names are added as full names and not separated into Firstname Lastname (or Lastname, Firstname) fields.

In many cases the author name and surname are obvious, as in Arturo Vázquez. But in a significant number of cases, they are not:

Please add the author's name in the standard format (be sure to check if the author is already in Open Library) and add as much detail as you have.


How do I add a picture to Open Library?

You can add cover images and author photos to Open Library. When you're looking at a book or author page, you should see a link saying "Add/Manage image". If you click on that, you'll see you can either upload something, or by clicking the Manage tab, you can choose the primary image. You can also delete images on the Manage tab by dragging them into the trash can.

When adding cover images to a book, make sure that you add it to an "edition" page. The search engine pulls images from edition pages. Edition pages have Open Library identifiers that end with an "M" (work pages end with a "W").


Can I see a list of all the stuff I've edited anywhere?

Yes. A history of everything you have edited is linked from your account page on Open Library. Just click on your username in the top right to see the list.

This is one of the benefits of opening an Open Library account - you can keep track of your edits.


I find duplicate authors. Can they be merged?

We have made the author merge feature admin-only for the time being. If you see multiple authors that should be combined, please send us an email at the Contact Form.


I find duplicate editions or works. Can they be merged?

No. Unfortunately, Open Library does not have this functionality as of yet. Duplicate records need to be merged by hand. When merging records, please be careful and make sure that no information is lost. Once that is complete, you can contact us with a deletion request for the now superfluous record.


What does "History" mean in the context of Open Library?

Open Library is a wiki designed to allow easy editing and connection between pages. It also allows us to keep a revision history of everything ever written in the system. We call that history.

Essentially, history is a reverse-chronological listing of every edit to a particular page on Open Library. If you click on the history of a page, you'll see a little browser thingy pop up on top of the page that will let you browse through the revision history of a page or record.


How do I create a List?

Usually the best way to start is to find an item you'd like to add to a list. So starting with a book like this one

If you see the "add to list" link down on the lower right and click the blue triangle, then you can click the "Create a new list" link.

create a new list image

You will get a dialog box asking for a list name and description and once you fill that in and click the "create new list" button you have both created the list AND added the book to the list. In the future that list will be available under the Add to List menu.



June 4, 2019 Edited by Lisa reverted test
June 4, 2019 Edited by Lisa test
October 19, 2018 Edited by Charles Horn remove incorrect link
April 7, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West added info on editions
November 16, 2010 Created by bookfinch Edited without comment.