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

Book Review Search

   August 9th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Google Custom SearchI've been trying for awhile to come up with a good way to use Google's Custom Search, and I think I found one.

I created a search for online book reviews. It can be a reader's advisory tool, help librarians with selection, or aid book groups in looking for information on their current selection. Give it a try:

Search for Book Reviews
Google Custom Search
(hint: enclose book titles in quotes to improve results; i.e.: "Cat's Cradle")

Despite my Very Large Skepticism of Google in general, the tool itself is very easy to set up and is potentially extremely useful (especially for librarians). Basically, it lets you limit searching to a select group of websites - in this case, book review websites. In fact, my biggest problem was in choosing which websites to include in the search (see below for my initial list).

One complaint I do have is that I can't control how included websites are ranked. For instance, I included amazon.com on the list, because it has a variety of reviews. In almost every search amazon.com shows up first. I would rather see them ranked below the non-commercial review websites, but Google's search algorithm always puts amazon.com on top [update: see comments below].

So, let me know what you think, and which very obvious websites I forgot to add. I've also embedded this search in my Library's Reading Room web pages, and plan on maintaining it as a readers advisory tool.

Thanks to Kate for pointing out this tool in the first place.

List of domains searched:

book, book review, book review search, book reviews, books, google, google custom search, library, public libraries, public library, reader advisory, readers advisory, review, reviews

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Online Readers Advisory Service

   August 7th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Maine State Library Outreach ServicesThe message below was posted to ME-LIBS last week, and it caught my attention - but then, most anything tagged "Online Reader Advisory Service" will:

Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2007 09:24:53 -0400
From: Melora Norman
Subject: Online Reader Advisory Service

Dear all,

We were inspired by a program presented at the 2006 Public Library Association conference to establish a reader advisory service for Books By Mail patrons which is accessible both online and in paper form. Please feel free to imitate (as did we!)


For more information on the original concept, please see *Looking for a Good Book?: Developing an Online Reading Suggestion Service*, a program presented in Boston 2006 by staff of the Williamsburg Regional Library:


(It is # 310 on the list)

Best wishes, and enjoy!


Melora Ranney Norman, coordinator
Maine State Library Outreach
64 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0064

I like both the readers advisory aspect of this program, as well as the books-by-mail aspect. Way to go, Maine State Library.

books by mail, libraries, library, maine state library, online reader advisory, online readers advisory, public libraries, public library, reader advisory, readers advisory

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More NELA residue

   November 2nd, 2006 Brian Herzog

While attending the sessions at NELA, I was keeping a running list of social networking websites I had never heard of before, but that I thought might have some application within the library. I intended to post about all these last week, but forgot until Chris happened to mention one in an email. I know I'm probably the last to hear about such things, but here they are...

  • Readers Advisory-type Websites
  • last.fm: Pays attention to the music you play on your computer or ipod, and keeps a running list in your music profile on their website. Your profile can be viewed by others who share your taste in music, and you can find new music to listen to by finding other people who share your tastes (like Chris does)
  • AllConsuming.net: This website covers anything and everything that people consume, but the section that interested me was, of course, the books section. Search for a book to find people that are currently reading or have read it, reader reviews, and also links to other books read by these same people - I like the "read-alike" aspect of this website (although I wasn't too impressed with the design)
  • 43Things: A website where people can keep track of the things they want to do with their life, like "write a novel" [4312 people] or "learn Klingon" [29 people]. It's a way to meet people with similar interests, and have people find you
  • WebShots.com: Very similar to flickr (which I use) but apparently attracts more youngies than old people like me - but it's always good to know what the kids are up to. They also seem to have more "mature content" control than flickr does, which I found interesting
  • "Enhance Your Website" Tools
  • Even I had heard of Meebo.com, but MeeboMe.com was new. It lets you embed an IM chat window right on your website, so client software does not need to be installed on a computer. I really like this idea. I have been trying to get IM Reference going in my library, and this might be the way to go. I think, just like Meebo, it works with AIM, MSN, Yahoo and GTalk, so this would be a great tool to have available on the library's public computers. I have to play with it more, but I'll keep you posted
  • Feed2JS.org: Again, this requires more playing on my part, but from what I understand of it, this tool lets you convert RSS feeds to javascript code, which can then be easily embedded on a website. So, if I wanted to display the posts from a Weird Al Yankovic blog (and after all, who wouldn't?) right on my own homepage, this tool allows me to do so

So many websites to keep up with. The distressing part is trying to get this information to my patrons (of course, they might know about them long before I do). It seems to me that making a webpage bibliography of these is a bit anachronistic, but will serve until I find something better - so if you know of a better way, please comment and let me know.

43things, allconsuming.net, books, chris, feed2js.org, flickr, im, last.fm, library, meebo.com, meebome.com, nela, readers advisory, rss, social networking, webshots.com, websites

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