Browse Harvard Library's entire collection of over 15 million items on a single shelf



    Screenshot taken 19 May 2017


Developed by the Library Innovation Lab in 2010, StackLife was a virtual browser that allowed users to explore the entire Harvard Library collection of over fifteen million items presented as a virtual shelf in call number order. Without StackLife this would have been an impossible feat, as the collection is housed across seventy libraries and two offsite storage facilities. StackLife enabled items to be re-sorted according to Library of Congress subject headings, and the browser also linked users directly to the item if it was available electronically.

StackLife was built around the core idea that “every book has many contexts.” Each of the items in the collection was heat-mapped to show community engagement; dark blue items signified more frequent use by the Harvard community than those represented by light blue. Examples of use include the number of checkouts by faculty, graduate students or undergraduates; the number of libraries that had a copy of it; how often a work was put on reserve, etc.

The stack reproduced here, shows the most heavily used items in the Harvard collection in the category “travel.” This particular stack includes 3,018 items, including books, DVDs, and magazines.

StackLife has been retired from LIL’s active projects but lives on as open source code in the Github repository. Check out StackLife’s homepage (Internet Archive link).