An Essay of the LISNews Summer Series
Ok, I didn’t plan on writing about BookMatch for LISNews. It isn’t very philosophically inspiring or technically amazing. However, it is a patron pleaser and service that any public library can implement in one form or another and enhances participants “Library Experience.” So, the question I kept asking myself when considering what to write was, “should I present an interesting but quickly forgotten bit of library philosophy or should I explain and walk through a well loved service?” The latter is what I would prefer to read.
BookMatch is the Skokie Public Library bringing readers advisory online.
BookMatch is put together by using SurveyMonkey, Wikispaces, and a Microsoft Word form. This process is in continuous flux as questions are rewritten, deleted, or added.
SurveyMonkey was used because of familiarity with the product and the ease of customization. More importantly SurveyMonkey provides the option of form logic, which is a pain to code… I hear. The BookMatch survey has nine paths depending on a patron’s answer to questions. For example, “Do you read romances?” The answer yes takes the patron to questions about romance and answering no skips that section. “Do you read fiction only or fiction and nonfiction or nonfiction only?” This question offers three different question paths. Form logic avoids patrons having to answer or even look at questions that do not apply to their reading tastes, essential if you do not want strictly nonfiction readers being faced with questions about Sword and Sorcery tastes.
Once the survey is received, it is transferred to a private wiki hosted by Wikispaces. A link to the survey and the date it was received is added to the Surveys Awaiting Response page. It is then reviewed by around twenty-five reader advisors with wildly divergent reading tastes. Suggested items are added to the discussion area of the wiki. Each suggestion entry has the title of the book, author, call number and a review/summary usually from a professional journal such as Booklist or the Library Journal.
Once the twenty to twenty-five titles have been suggested, the manager of that particular BookMatch adds them to a Microsoft Word form. The form is turned in to a PDF using an open source Word to PDF converter and emailed/mailed/left at a desk for the patron. The link on the wiki is then transferred to the completed area.
Training the reader services staff to work with the wiki and the Microsoft form took a little time. Interestingly enough, suggesting books, the most important and arguably most difficult aspect of working on a BookMatch, caused almost no issues. Suggesting titles has been universally agreed to be fun. An added benefit to using a wiki is that the entire RS staff is now more than proficient in using wikis. This will make implementing other projects that call for online collaboration through wikis easier to implement.
Without advertising, programs such BookMatch would wither on the vine. We used the traditional public library advertising methods. It was announced on the front page of the website and described in the quarterly update. We have placed Moo Cards at the reader services desk with a short description and the URL.
Patrons of all ages love this service. It has been surprising to us how many teens and college age patrons have submitted surveys. Here are a few quotes excerpted from emails sent to Ricki Nordmeyer (the brains behind BookMatch).
“I LOVE my BookMatch list. I used to have a hard time finding books, and it is so helpful.”
“I LOVE LOVE LOVE the BookMatch service. I have found new authors that I probably wouldn't have found.”
“I am a huge fan of the service you provide through BookMatch. Finding a good read has been a challenge for me. I enjoy reading, yet couldn't find the right books for me. While the survey was rather thorough, it was simple to complete.”
An added benefit is that it has made the entire RS department better at their jobs. If a patron comes to the desk and tells me they like Jodi Picoult and Stephanie Meyer (two authors I have never read) I can use previous BookMatches to easily suggest other authors.
So BookMatch is beloved by patrons and makes our RS staff stronger at suggesting books, what is not to love about it?