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

Reference Question of the Week – 9/30/07

   October 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog
Love in the Time of Cholera coverOn Friday, Oprah Winfrey's announced her next book club book.

An elderly female patron called the desk and said:

I'd like to request a book called Love in the Time of Collars. You probably don't have it. Oprah just announced on television that it's the next book for her book club, and I wanted to call you right up to request it. Since she just announced it I figure you haven't had a chance to buy it yet, but can I be first on the list?

She was surprised to learn that, 1) we actually had three copies ("oh, does she notify libraries before she says it on television?" [we only wish]), and, 2) there were already four people on the request list ahead of her.

I didn't have the heart to correct her on the title, but she'll figure it out (or be disappointed that it's not a story about that kind of love triangle).

Search for reviews of Love in the Time of Cholera using the Online Book Review Search:
Google Custom Search

book club, book review search, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gabriel Garciá Maŕquez, libraries, library, love in the time of cholera, oprah, oprah's book culb, public libraries, public library, reference question

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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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