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

Resources for Book Suggestions

   February 14th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Last week's Reference Question was about me finding a new source for suggesting good books for patrons - the Mass Book Awards.

Liz's comment on the post was a good one, and I thought it warranted a bit of research and a full post devoted to answering it. She said:

There are a few websites which allow you to enter some of your favorite bands and it pops out suggestions of similar bands you might like - wouldn’t it be awesome if they had a site like that for books?...

Here are some resources I found that let you search for a book/author you like, and then link from it to similar books:

  • WhatShouldIReadNext.com - search for a book to see recommendations
  • reader2.com - search for a book to see recommendations; also shows tags associated with each book
  • AllReaders.com - search for a title or author, and similar books are listed at the end of each book description; also allows searching by plot, setting, or character
  • StoryCode.com - lets you search for a title or author and suggests similar stories (based on user data); also has other features
  • LibraryThing.com - offers book suggestions based on user-entered tags; you can also browse tags for books on a certain subject, or use their unsuggester to find books unlike a particular book
  • GoodReads.com - seems a lot like LibraryThing, but puts more emphasis on recommendations of people in your friends network rather than cumulative data
  • NoveList - the old standby, but you probably need to go through your local library for it
  • Amazon.com - it is Amazon, so it's primary focus is to sell book, not recommend them, but it does offer suggestions based on what people purchase and search by topic (as it were)

There are lots of other sites devoted to book suggestions. A few others I found that didn't fit above but that are also useful are:

  • Listal.com Books - search (hidden in upper right corner) for books and link to others via tags (seems to focus more on social connections)
  • FictionFinder from OCLC - offers Subject cloud (like tag cloud) to find similar books; also allows searching, and each book has links to see other books with the same subjects, genres, characters or setting
  • Find a Good Book from Hennepin County Library - search for an author to find recommended reading lists where that author's books appear (plus links to other listings and resources)
  • Staff Recommendations from the Skokie Public Library - search for a subject to find books their staff has reviewed and recommends

And here's a few resources that are list-based - you click the subject you like, and you browse the list of books in that subject:

I'm sure there are tons of others - even my library also has a readers advisory webpage. If I missed one of your favorites, please share it with a comment below.

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Readers Advisory Ideas

   August 14th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Photograph of a Stack of BooksReaders Advisory has been quite the topic for me lately, and the fun continues.

There's a current thread on ME-LIBS about what libraries do to connect books with readers, and I thought I'd pull together some of the examples provided (please excuse any editorializing on my part - I was trying to just pull out the highlights, so any mistakes below are mine):

Molly Larson, Rockport Public Library

  • We have a "Rockport Readers Recommend" display that is ongoing and we encourage patrons to recommend titles...[and] write a comment in the notebook. We also post this list on our website including patron comments
  • We also have "BookLovers Cafe"...an informal gathering on Saturdays once a month when patrons can just come in and talk about what they're reading. [Staff] compiles the list of recommended books and we also provide the list at the book display
  • [Staff] created a handy series book that is right at the Circ desk. Patrons like this because they don't have to look it up in the OPAC or somewhere else to find the next title in a series (popular adult fiction)
  • We have various themed displays that change regularly. Patrons love the different displays
  • In our monthly newsletter...staff members will contribute "good reads" suggestions. I've seen patrons bring in the list of recommended reading and look for the books
  • We have done "if you like" lists on occasion as bookmarks
  • Ongoing display of new children's books and Maine Student Book award books
  • I use NoveList almost on a daily basis and offer to print article from that for patrons

Kathy Foss, Camden-Rockport Middle School Library

  • A series "notebook" which we used to have in hard copy but now have at our website
  • A set of shelves just for what I call "Foss Favorites" in the school library which kids can browse as they know I've read each title and recommend it
  • A variety of reading lists on our website so that if a student wants another book, for example, with animal main characters, they can browse these and print out the lists that interest them most by clicking on Foss Favorites on that page
  • We also use Novelist all the time
  • This fall we plan to start encouraging our students to podcast their own book reviews so that other kids can hear them

Barbara L. Keef, Windham Public Library

  • Our patrons love eye-catching displays, especially if they are in a bit of a hurry to grab a couple of books for their vacation time (the popularity of a display is easily judged by the amount of time you spend in re-stocking those titles)
  • Some successful display ideas from our library include:
    • "Most checked-out book lists" from Library Journal to showcase the popular fiction and non-fiction titles
    • A display of "what we read last summer" (the NY Times Best-sellers from the summer of 2006)
    • A "Read, White, and Blue" display of -guess what- books with red, white and blue covers
    • A "Get a Life" display for biographies
    • Read-alike display (right now it's Jodi Picoult)
    • Other Popular Author display (at the moment, it's Clive Cussler)
  • We also have created read-alike bookmarks as well as a list of what our Book Group has been reading/discussing
  • There are also displays in our Teen Area for new titles and other popular subjects (pirates, for example)
  • Novelist is a valuable tool along with all those other lists found on public library websites. It is fun to hear what other libraries are doing for Reader's Advisory and it helps to browse websites and visit bookstores to get ideas

I don't know why, but it was kind of funny to see that everyone mentioned NoveList (I use it myself, and patrons seem to enjoy NoveList after I demonstrate it). I also liked that these libraries dedicate displays to younger readers; I know that depends on staff and space availability, but it's a group that shouldn't be ignored.

In my library, we rely heavily on displays, read-alike bookmarks, informal staff suggestions, and our Readers Corner webpage. We also use NoveList quite a bit, as well as BookLetters. My concern is trying to present all of these suggestion sources in a coherent and useful way.

Another source for ideas is the Readers Advisory section of the Library Success: Best Practices Wiki. If your library has found something that works well, please share.

books, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reader advisory, readers advisory, reading, recommendations, suggestions

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