Talpa is a magical, AI-powered library search backed by true and authoritative data.

Try it now!

On the Mid-Hudson Library System

You can also try it on Lafayette Public Library and Waverly Public Library.

How does it work?

Talpa combines so-called "AI" and authoritative book data. The AI comes from Claude AI from Anthropic and ChatGPT from OpenAI. Our authoritative book data comes from Bowker, Syndetics Unbound from ProQuest, and LibraryThing.

Talpa uses AI technology in two ways:

  • First, Talpa queries large language models from Anthropic and OpenAI for books and other media, validating every item against true and authoritative bibliographic data.
  • Second, Talpa uses the natural-language abilities of large language models to parse and understand queries, which are then answered with traditional library data. So, for example, a search for "novels about World War II in France" taps into subjects, tags, and character data from LibraryThing.
Unlike chatting with large language models directly, Talpa doesn't "hallucinate" books that don't exist—everything is checked against our massive storehouse of true and authoritative bibliographic data.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Talpa's ability to find books by their cover design isn't powered by AI at all, but by the effort of thousands of book lovers who have played LibraryThing's CoverGuess cover-tagging game since 2010!

Talpa Search works on your library holdings. Items in your library's collection are given precedence in the results. Items not in your collection may still appear lower down in the results.

Can we get this now?

For a limited time, Talpa is free to all libraries that use Syndetics Unbound from ProQuest and LibraryThing. Read the full announcement on Syndetics Unbound News and Updates. Configure Talpa and get links and buttons for your site on the Syndetics Unbound Admin.

Talpa Search is still an experiment. We don't know if it is going to become a new product, an add-on, or a standard part of Syndetics Unbound.

Interested in learning more? Drop us a line using the form here and note in the comments that you’re interested in Talpa.

What are you working on?

Talpa is in active development, and we want your feedback! Here are some known limitations.

  • Talpa works best finding older titles, but can miss on recently-published ones.
  • Because Talpa is intended for the real libraries that use Syndetics Unbound, results are partially determined by what the library has in its holdings. Items that may not be at the library are lower in the results and have black-and-white covers.

If you have any suggestions or comments, email info@librarything.com or click "Find Out More" within Talpa—there's a "What Do You Think?" section there.

Who made this?

Talpa Search is project of LibraryThing. We make the personal cataloging site LibraryThing.com and the small-institution catalog system TinyCat. Together with ProQuest, we are the co-creators of Syndetics Unbound.

What's in a name?

Talpa is the Latin word for mole! Now you know.