Netflix for the Library: Hiring a Personal Librarian

reference desk

Jeff O'Neal writes:

True story: I bribed a librarian (after a brief conversation about my general reading interests) to constantly stick new/interesting things in my hold queue. Best. Thing. Ever. It’s like Netflix for the library, now!

He's talking about what librarians call readers' advisory. In a readers' advisory reference interview, the librarian asks questions about the patron's reading tastes and suggests books to read based upon the patron's answers.

But O'Neal's librarian went even further. S/he automatically adds relevant reading materials to his hold queue without being specifically requested to do so. Kim Ukura thinks this is a great idea that could be expanded:

I am in love with this idea. How fun would it be to task a well-read person to develop a personally curated queue of books that will arrive for you to borrow intermittently, at no charge, based on what is new or exciting that seems to fit with your general reading tastes? It sounds almost too good to be true!

Most readers already find ways to build their own “librarian” for recommendations, finding friends or bloggers or book reviewers who seem to have similar tastes then seeking out their recommendations. But that system still has an element of choice — this Frankenstein’s monster of a librarian may cobble together a list of books that seem interesting, but you as the reader still end up making the choice of what to buy/borrow/bypass.

Having a real-life personal librarian could be so much better. Once the relationship was built, and with enough feedback about which books were interesting and which books fell flat, you could almost guarantee that your personal librarian would pick out some things that would be of interest to you. And since it’s a queue of library books, the decision about whether to spend money on an unfamiliar book is eliminated, making the barrier to trying something new really low.

Link -via @brainpicker | Photo: radical.librarian

Would you find this kind of readers' advisory service helpful?




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Maybe a solution is to provide a public "if you love this book, you'd like these ones by different authors" - that way, it facilitates discovery without having to incur too much personalization.
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Possibly. Perhaps if there was a Friends of the Library organization. Cookies probably do no harm. Last week, a happy patron came by with kolaches for the librarians. One critical difference: librarian treats should never be conditional upon some service.
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