Archivy etc.

opinions, occasional rants, and sometimes things that have nothing to do with archives at all. Nothing here should be assumed to be reflective of my employer's opinion(s) nor should it be assumed that at anytime afterward, this is what I still think.

Monday, March 26, 2012

ADR-3: Reader's advisory

This week it's NoveList and NoveList k-8.

I've been using NoveList regularly for a few years: mostly to find that title of the book where I remember the plot and a couple of the characters, but am blanking on author and title. The other significant use I've made of it is in relation to an ongoing research project: I did my MA thesis on archives and archivists and how they're portrayed in fiction. Unfortunately last time I checked they're not using that as a controlled vocabulary term (what's wrong with LCSH that they don't cater to me?) so I often have to use broader terms or just archiv* and that messes me up when the review is written by an archivist...

But I haven't used it--at all--to get suggestions for others I might like. So this use was new.

1: Use the Read-Alike features in NoveList or NoveList K-8 to find several new authors or titles that you might like to read based on your favorite books. How accurate do you think these recommendations are? How about the Series recommendations?

I started with Terry Pratchett, one of the finest writers today. And the first three read-alikes were Paul Di Filippo, Patricia Wrede, and Neil Gaiman. I've not read the first two, will admit, but I was taken aback by the Gaiman suggestion. He and Pratchett co-wrote one of the best fantasy novels I've ever read (my original introduction to Pratchett, in fact) but I wouldn't at all call him comparable. Much darker, a good writer, and I have tons of friends who love his work, but it really doesn't speak to me. I wouldn't consider them similar authors at all. Of the 9 authors suggested, I'd read Gaiman, Spider Robinson, Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony, and T. H. White. A few of whom I liked, a few I disliked, a few I went back and forth on, but none would be that comparable for me except in the broad category (for a few of them) as "humorous sf/f writer." I probably shouldn't have chosen an author that was so sui generis for me. 

So I switched over to a much more mainstream author: J. D. Robb (better known as Nora Roberts.) And mostly got a smattering of romance authors (including Julie Garwood? Really?) with Tami Hoag thrown into the mix who started as a romance author but quickly segued into the darker suspense novels. Weirdly enough, I like the Robb novels, not so much her Roberts novels (I can't explain but I'm convinced it's a different author) but that may be because I also like mystery novels and enjoy the touch of police procedurals and the more character-driven plots of the Robb books. I guess there's no more character-driven plot than a romance novel, but I was surprised not to find any of the lighter mystery authors not included. I also noted that the first book listed under Robb was listed as forthcoming though it's been out well over a month, so whatever is flipping that switch in the database is a little behind. 

I couldn't find anything that looked like a series recommendation, so I clicked off to the help screen, typed in series recommendations and a few clicks and new windows later, I found the EBSCO help instructions for finding series recommendations. In a Word doc though? Why wasn't this a webpage instead of a download? So back to the main screen with J D Robb, click the series button, and looked at what I got. First was Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series which I would decidedly NOT consider comparable. Very different genre and significantly more NSFW status, that one. However some of the others in the remaining 9 leaned more toward the romantic suspense end of things, so might be considered somewhat comparable. 

2: Save several of those selections to your folder.
Did. Did so by clicking on the folder icon since I wasn't sure what the save icon would do. (I'm curious: the save icon is traditionally a 3.5 floppy. Anybody else wondering if that will change since hardly any of the youngsters know what a 3.5 floppy is anymore?)

3: Often librarians are asked about books in series order. Use NoveList or NoveList K-8 to find a series in series order. (hint: search on the author and use the Series tab at the top of the results list)
I switched over to Nalini Singh on this one, because I was curious as to how the results list would get ordered with the novellas published in anthologies, to see if they'd be in initial date publishing order. (Robb has those too, but with as many as there were in that series, it would take me forever to find them). As it turned out, 2 of the three were in the list in story-line-based chronological order. The third was listed at the end, decidedly in no order at all: neither story-based nor publication-based. So that confused me a little. But it wouldn't necessarily have affected the reader that much--there were only a few clues in one of the regular novels to indicate that this particular novella immediately preceded it. 

4: Check out the Resources section – Readers Advisory Toolbox – on NoveList or the How To Use NoveList support center. What parts of the NoveList website do you thing will be most useful to your patrons?
I'd already briefly looked at the How To Use in my attempt to figure out instructions for the series recommendations. I don't work with patrons in this realm, so it's a little hard to assess the rest of that question. What I'd say is that the suggested authors would probably prove useful as well as the general searching for a book when you can't remember the exact details. The other benefit over other book searches is the ability to sort in order without getting every single reprint and new cover messing up the list--one of Amazon's greatest failures/lacks, IMO, where they rely on users to provide those lists and only give searchers the sort by publication date option. 

Because I have to...

I worked at Waldenbooks many years ago while I was in college and for a few years after. One day this girl in her late teens/early 20s walks in and comes up to the desk. She says something to the effect of "I can't remember what the book is called but for some reason I think of rabbits." I said (with nary a pause): "The Necromonicon?" She says: "YES!" We walk back to the appropriate shelf, I pull it for her, I ring it up, she pays, she walks out, very happy. I look over at my boss who had watched this whole exchange and who is sitting there sputtering "what the, what the, what the... How did you DO that?" To which, even now, I still have no answer. Had never read the book in question, the girl was dressed preppy, and I have no idea how rabbits enter into the question. Now THAT'S reader's advisory. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the necronomican story from your bookstore days!