StackLife: Visually browse millions of Harvard Library materials

2 min read

StackLife combines the familiarity of ordinary shelves with the dexterity of the virtual to let users explore the 12.3 million items in Harvard’s 73 libraries, with the Harvard community as a guide.

Developed by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, StackLife is an open-source project that displays works on a virtual shelf that combines shelves from all of Harvard’s many libraries. With a click, StackLife users can create new shelves, pulling together works from across the physical library spaces. For example, clicking on an item’s subject areas creates new shelves holding all the works in the Harvard collection within that subject area, inviting serendipitous discoveries.

The depth of the color of a work’s spine indicates its StackScore, a measure of how often that work has been used by the Harvard community. StackScore can include measures such as the number of checkouts by faculty, graduate students or undergraduates, the number of libraries that have a copy of it, how often a work has been put on reserve or called back early, etc. The height of the work’s spine as displayed on a StackLife shelf indicates the actual height of a volume, and its thickness indicates how many pages are in it.

Users can click on an item to see its availability in the Library, tag it for community discovery, see a shelf of all the works by a particular author, and, if available, read a Google Books version.

The Innovation Lab also created a version of StackLife for the Digital Public Library of America.