or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Selection Speculation

   November 18th, 2008

We Buy Books photoPersonnel changes at my library are changing the way we do collection development. So for the past couple weeks, I've been thinking about how to incorporate more review-reading and book selection into my workday.

Since this has been on my mind, I had two slightly unusual ideas for potential ways to supplement more traditional selection.

Selection via LibraryThing Early Reviewers
I've been a part of the LibraryThing.com Early Reviewers program since it started (if you haven't, and enjoy reading, it's worth checking out). I've used this as a resource for new books for awhile, but something I noticed recently was that the books I like often had the most requests.

My idea was for Tim to whip together one of his useful tools, so that librarians (or anyone who signed up) could receive an email (or rss feed) each month after the list has closed, with the title of each book, how many requests it got, and also a link to LibraryThing or Amazon. My logic was that if a book appears popular with LibraryThing'ers, there's a good chance it will also be popular in my library.

I wrote to Tim and asked him about this just a couple days ago, and I'm hoping for a positive response. But if you like the idea, contact LibraryThing and ask them to implement it. Lobbying like this is probably the last thing he wants, but I do think this could be a valuable and unique selection tool.

Selection via Universal Medical Database
For awhile now there's been talk about the government and hospitals trying to start a single database of health information of every American.

The pros are that it'd be easier for a doctor anywhere in the country to access someone's medical history in an emergency, and it could also prevent conflicting medications and stop people shopping around for prescription narcotics. Drawbacks of the idea are that it potentially leaves people open to an invasion of privacy, or allows employers and others to discriminate based on medical conditions.

What does this have to do with libraries? It occurred to me that if such a universal system ever were put in place, it could potentially be used to help improve a library's collection of medical books. If real-time statistics could be provided on what conditions and illnesses were prevalent in a particular community, the library could use that information to make sure it had books and information on those topics.

Not that either of these might ever come to pass, and they both have a very big-brothery feel to them. These ideas are just some idle speculation on alternative selection tools to supplement traditional methods.




Tags: , , , , , , ,


2 Responses to “Selection Speculation”

  1. Mary Ellen Petrich Says:

    Speaking of how Internet usage affects local and national health policy… I’m guessing that you’ve already seen this new Google wing-ding?

    http://www.google.org/flutrends/

    Google is using numbers of searches for the term “flu” to report flu trends to the CDC. They found that this is up to two weeks faster than depending on the reports of a network of doctors.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Mary Ellen: I had read about this, but didn’t make the connection back to libraries. With all the the data that Google tracks and stores, I bet they could provide libraries with every aliment, hobby, movie preference, etc. that is prevalent in our communities.