New website showcases campus media libraries

By Usman Ahmed

Balancing books and friends is every student’s dilemma, especially those at the University of Chicago, who often spend their nights cuddled up with dead authors as opposed to real people.

And while Isaac Wasileski, a third-year in the College concentrating in computer science, and Ryo Chijiiwa, a second-year in the College also concentrating in computer science, have little to say on this matter, they have made it easier for students to at least make physical contact with other students before retiring to their rooms to read. The two designed and conceived, which they describe as, “one part nerd, one part geek, and all part University of Chicago.”

Openhive allows students at the University to catalogue and manage their library of books, movies, and music on-line and search through other students’ libraries. Items can be lent, borrowed, or sold.

“Openhive combines a personal library feature with social networking,” Chijiiwa said, “although the main focus is on sharing.”

Chijiiwa explained that the idea just “popped up” over the summer when he and his friends were sitting in the MacLab. “It was something we’d all thought of independently at one point or another,” he said. Chijiiwa added that his motivation for pursuing the idea was the knowledge that the system had the potential to be very useful.

The high price of textbooks inspired Wasileski, who explained that he can rarely afford to buy textbooks, and instead tries to borrow textbooks whenever possible.

Wasileski noted, however, that borrowing textbooks can be problematic because it’s difficult to locate students who have spare books. He began Openhive hoping that it would be easier for people to share and locate books, music, and movies.

Anyone with a University e-mail address can create an account on Openhive. After creating an account, users can add their media in a variety of fashions, from inputting titles to ISBN numbers. Users can then rate, annotate, and categorize these items in their library. Users who are “comrades” with each other can then browse through each other’s libraries and send requests for books, movies, or music.

“Say you feel like watching a movie; you just hit browse, select DVDs, and start looking for something that strikes your fancy,” Wasileski said.

Eric Rogers, a fourth-year in the College concentrating in political science who has been using Openhive for approximately four months, said that his favorite thing about the website is being able to catalogue his library and also to find movies.

“There is also this dorky sense of competition,” he added. “Who has the most books?”

Wasileski cautioned that Openhive isn’t a be-all and end-all, but just a nice addition for students searching for media.

“In many situations, the library works just fine. But obviously, if they had enough copies of our textbooks, we wouldn’t need to buy them at the bookstore.

Textbooks are often on two-hour reserve, which can put a lot of time pressure on your work. Or maybe it’s cold, you live in the Shoreland, and a friend down the hall has the book you need. Or maybe the Regenstein doesn’t carry the complete West Wing,” he said.

Chijiiwa added that while the main goal of Openhive isn’t to curb piracy, he felt that the website could also help cut down on illegal file sharing. “Why spend hours illegally downloading a poor quality version of a movie when you can walk down the hall and borrow the DVD legally,” he said.

Openhive, with 93 users and just over 2,500 items, has been online since the summer and is still in beta. Wasileski and Chijiiwa said that they are eager to improve Openhive and add new features to the website, such as a rating service, a method to compile reading lists for classes, and improving the ability of users to purchase and sell items.