More and more often we frontline librarians are dealing with patrons who want whatever it is they are looking for “right now.” Reference interview? Only if you can do it in 1.5 seconds. In this age of immediate accessibility to information it helps to have tools at the ready! When I get the above question from a patron, ideally I would take the time to walk them through NoveList and show them how they can manipulate this wonderful database to find author or title read-alikes, books of a particular genre, everything in a series (listed in order!), etc. But in order to do that we have to open the library’s website, click the link to our databases, go to GALILEO, log into GALILEO, search for the database we’re looking for (which assumes that we actually know the name of the database we’re looking for,) open NoveList and then begin our search. Sadly by this time many of our patrons are already down the street hitting the McDonald’s drive thru.
So sometimes being able to quickly pull up one good website is the best way to keep our patrons engaged in their search and to ensure they leave the library with a book in their hands. Of course this time of year book reviews and recommended reading lists abound, but getting familiar with a couple of RA websites can really serve you and your patrons well in a pinch. Below are the top five sites (in no particular order) I keep handy when asked the dreaded question. Bookmarking a couple of these on your Reference desk can make you look like a library genius!
Fantastic Fiction: Bibliographies on over 30,000 authors and information on over 350,000 titles. This site contains an extensive list of Series and Awards. For something akin to read-alikes, search for an author and once on their page scroll down for a list of books that author recommends. Also includes lists of New Books and not yet published Coming Soon titles. Mostly focuses on better known authors, so your patrons looking for more obscure authors/titles, may not find them here.
Goodreads: One of the most popular online book sites, now owned by Amazon, and is great for making book lists based on reader/user reviews. You can search by genre or browse through their lists of Goodreads Choice Awards which compile the year’s best books in various genres based on Goodreads user votes. Sign up for a free account, start rating books you’ve read and receive personalized recommendations based on other reviewers.
WhatShouldIReadNext: This is a very straight forward and user-friendly site both in its interface and it what it offers the user. No need to create an account (although you can if you want to add your own reviews to their extensive database,) simply type in the name of a book or author on the home page and based on member reviews the database will generate a list of recommended reading. This one can be very useful on the Reference desk when working with an impatient patron!
Whichbook: A fun site to play with for patrons or staff who want to put in a few minutes of time to find the perfect next read. Whichbook generates recommended reading based on the user’s mood, or essentially the mood of the book you’d like to read. The site provides a list of sliders that users can choose four of to indicate their mood (are you looking for something more Happy or Sad, Safe or Disturbing, Easy or Demanding, No Sex or Lots of Sex, etc.) Users can also browse through mood book lists that have already been created, or can create their own. A fun tool for discovering titles you may not have thought you’d like, although not as useful at finding author read-alikes.
Shelfari: Another site that has been acquired by Amazon, Shelfari is a social cataloging site for books. It requires a bit of time and effort up front, but if you create a free account you can rate, review and discuss books with other members and even join groups to connect with other readers. What I find most useful here is the virtual bookshelves users can create. Different shelves for books you’ve read, books you’d like to read, books you own and books you are currently reading help to sort and keep track of all the recommended titles you might come across. The RA is strictly based on other users’ reviews, but as an organizational tool this site is very useful.
Now, go forth and advise some readers!