Alaska Digital Resources – Week 3 – Reader’s Advisory

The preliminaries

I sometimes admit things, in my blog, that I probably shouldn’t. Case in point: I didn’t know there were actual resources for readers’ advisory! I just thought we were supposed to know these things off the tops of our heads, or cheat by going to GoodReads or LibraryThing or (sorry) Amazon.

This would be a bit more egregious if I had ever actually been a public librarian. But I haven’t. I came close: I was an assistant in a public library and did answer reference questions and do readers’ advisory—always off the top of my head or tag-team with a coworker, who was also working off the top of her head (and we did pretty great, if I do say so myself)—but I technically hadn’t started my MLIS. By the way, it was the best summer job I’ve ever had. I loved working at that library.

Anyway, I absolutely love fiction, so I really miss helping people find fictional titles they would enjoy. Nobody asks for that at our reference desk. They ask interesting questions, which are also great, but you just don’t bond with a patron over the intricacies of jurisprudence in 1890 Alaska, or whatever, the way you do when talking about what you both enjoy reading. Or maybe you do, but I, unfortunately, do not.

My point is, this is definitely going to be my favorite of all of the lesson topics!

The exercises

I just finished the Parasol Protectorate books, so I put that in and chose Read-Alikes for Soulless, the first book in the series. Several of the recommendations look interesting to me. Although, um, there’s a little bit of genre-switching in the list. (I went and looked one up on Amazon, and the cover, oh my!) The series list is actually better, relevancy-wise (for me), putting the one I find most interesting at the top of the list.

Digression (in which I go way off track and get angry, but do learn a lot about the interface)

And, here, I might be getting ahead of myself, but I am really annoyed that I can’t click on keywords in the reviews and records—what they call “appeal factors.” For instance, “character-driven” could keep me reading for years! Especially if I could add other aspects to it, like “strong female characters” or “action-packed.” (I went and looked up Hunger Games, too. :)) And why isn’t there (or perhaps why can’t I find) an option to add several different books, or several different series, so it can figure out what they have in common and suggest things that way? Netflix does it. Amazon does it. Why not NoveList?

OH! You can get to “appeal factors,” to sort! They’re hidden at the bottom of the right side of the record, it seems. (Wow, this interface leaves some things to be desired. Like Overdrive, it’s a great idea, but poorly executed.) Ugh, “chick lit” is a genre in this database? I find that insulting.

Possibly worse: while searching desperately for “strong female characters” (using phrasing from a review, to start), all I can find are “women slaves” and “women kidnap victims” and, sure, also “women rulers” and “women bounty hunters.” I also got to “independence in women,” which isn’t the same thing but is probably the closest I can get. Not good, EBSCO. Not good.

Back to the exercises…

So, I added a book and two series to a folder. Easy enough.

As for getting series to show up in order, I couldn’t find a way to get that to just happen, even following the directions, but once I had pulled up a series, I was able to sort it by “date” and by “volume.” Good enough!

In bumbling around trying to find the Resources section to read the Readers Advisory Toolbox (I already looked at How To Use NoveList), I found the Book Discussion Guides. Those are neat!

As for the Toolbox, it’s kind of cool. Like a TV Tropes for books, I guess. (Only TV Tropes is not just about TV—it already includes books—and I don’t believe it’s split up by genre at all.) Also, to get back to my digression, I find this interesting: it says “Women’s Fiction,” under Genres, not the far more insulting “chick lit.” Maybe they’re in the process of removing the derogatory term from the database and just haven’t taken it out of their facets yet. Let’s hope.

Anyway, for my patrons, the Book Discussion Guides are probably the most useful thing. I’ve had people show up to get books for book clubs—and next time that happens, I might offer to point these folks to NoveList for discussion ideas. Also, if anyone’s really struggling in an English class, assuming there’s a discussion guide for the book they’re reading, it could help them in the same way as Spark Notes.

On to the article, I would definitely recommend GoodReads over LibraryThing, having done both. There’s just so much more interaction on the former! Friends of mine have used What Should I Read Next? with some success. I thought Shelfari was done, but it seems they’re still up and running; I still think GoodReads is better. … I know very little about the others. Gnooks lists Ayn Rand near Neal Stephenson, which annoyed me—it’s probably not much to base an anti-recommendation on, but it was definitely a bad first impression; I closed the window. And Whichbooks’ sliders amuse me, though I wasn’t sure what “Larger than life,” for instance, meant; I was unable to get more than one book I had read out of the sliders, and I disagreed with the site’s assessment of where it fit… so, while it’s fun to play with, I wouldn’t recommend that, either.

About Coral Sheldon-Hess

Web librarian, Alaskan, tech teacher, feminist geek, crafter, former engineer, and Oxford comma apologist. Loves coffee and birds. "Kunoichi"=="female ninja."
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3 Responses to Alaska Digital Resources – Week 3 – Reader’s Advisory

  1. Ann says:

    Wow – I appreciate the thorough overview of the Tools. I agree that the execution of the site leaves a lot to be desired and is not nearly as intuitive as it needs to be to make it easy for people to find what they want. Interesting idea that they should link those filter words/phrases in reviews – I will certainly pass that on to Max and Amanda and I will include their emails here so that you can as well if you like. Max is an Inside Sales Rep (whatever that is) and Amanda is the Regional Sales Manager.

    I have to admit that I am more likely to check LibraryThing or GoodReads for recommendations than I am to actually participate in the discussions, which as I say it seems odd since I love to talk about books. Hmmmm. I need to think about that a little. And I appreciate the digressions – that is what makes the process so fun :-)

    Ann

  2. Whats up I saw you had a cool site and wanted to tell you that your RSS reader is sending a error Hopefully you can get it fixed

  3. Barbie Keller says:

    I agree that GoodReads is more versatile than LIbraryThings. The Book Discussion Guides are awesome and I use them with my students!

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