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Readers Advisors

Page history last edited by Dave Macneil 7 years, 8 months ago

Discover can be used several ways as a Readers’ Advisory tool. In the first half of this tutorial, we explored the My Discoveries feature, which invites users to tag, rate and review. As an extension of this, it also displays user names, allowing a patron to “discover” another reader with similar reading interests. This type of serendipity, combined with the ability to see what others are reading, and share your own opinions and attractions to items is what makes Discover a social catalogue - and an RA tool.


But, we can go beyond the simple ability to search, see other users & what they are reading, and create content ourselves. RAs are often looking for author read-alikes or books that are similar to other books. While it is good to turn to specialized RA sources such as NoveList and print sources, Discover can often provide similar information quickly when you have a line-up at the desk or are short on time. One major advantage to using Discover is that it is based on our own collections, therefore only generating reading suggestions that are already owned by Halifax Public Libraries.  If time is limited, using Discover is often the best place to start.


Using the Refine toolbar, pulling up similar titles for authors can be much simpler when crunched for time. While this doesn’t remove the need for RAs to spend time building similar lists based on appeal factors or replace the need for tools such as NoveList which specialize in Readers' Advisory services, it assists in finding similar titles or authors based on subject headings and genres by comparing common access points and bringing those materials together.


Let’s try a search.

A reader comes up to you and tells you about a great book they just read, “Beautiful Creatures”. Based on your RA interview, you extract the main themes that the reader enjoyed about this book. Let’s imagine, in this example, our reader enjoyed the supernatural and imaginary feel or imaginary culture that was created by the different characters in the book.


With that information, how can you find similar titles that our reader may be interested in? There are two components here:


  1. The Title “Beautiful Creatures”
  2. Two topics or themes: “Supernatural” and “Imaginary Feel/Culture”


The easiest and most direct way to find similar titles to this book is by searching the book itself, Beautiful Creatures. In this way, Discover is similar to NoveList, where you can search a popular author, title or genre to assist in finding similar reads and authors. However, unlike NoveList, similar reads and authors aren’t compiled by lists created by RA experts, but are pulled together by similar access points in their records, such setting, genres or subjects. The more access points that “match” the greater the similarity.


Now that we’ve performed our search of “Beautiful Creatures” how do we narrow down the search to similar topics or themes? If you remember your basic access points (specifically genres and subjects), you’ll realize that the information is already in the bibliographic record and Discover will help pull it out and bring related items together.


If you have not already done so, type “Beautiful Creatures”. Scroll down until you see the refine option TOPIC in the right-hand tool bar.



You’ll notice that there are two topics that fit into the “themes” described by our reader. But if you wanted to explore further, click on the 117 more. All of these topics have titles attached related to the book Beautiful Creatures, pulling together similar access points. Choose the Supernatural topic and read the summaries of the books mentioned. Here are two books in our system that may be just right for our reader - and, they are in our collection!


Let’s try another search.

A reader comes up to a roving RA and starts talking about the author, David Baldacci. Explore what the reader likes about him. Are there themes? Topics? A specific genre?


In the end, we find out the reader likes the political thriller aspect of some of his books and often, tends to like FBI or investigative characters.


This search is trickier and can be approached in two ways. The first is by searching for the key genre and character information our reader gave to us. However, if you aren’t familiar with the exact genres or vocation terminology used in the catalogue (controlled vocabulary), try searching by the author first.


In this example, let’s assume you aren’t familiar with the exact vocabulary used in the catalogue.

Step 1. In the search box on the main page, search David Baldacci.

Step 2. Narrow it down by the format Fiction.



Step 3. Scroll down and look at the Refine options on the right-hand tool bar.

Notice the Topics and Genre options, which are extremely helpful when seeking similar authors or read-alikes. The terms listed are the terms used in our catalogue. If you search these topics and genres, alone or combined, you will retrieve items by authors who write books with a similar FBI/investigator and political thriller feel. At this point, if you click on a Topic or Genre, you’ll “drill down” your search further - but it will still be a David Baldacci search!


What you want to do with this search is take note of the various Topics and Genres that have been applied to David Baldacci’s books - which is what is represented by the Refine toolbar. If you require more Topics and Genres than what are listed, click the more... option for each facet. This will bring up a list of additional Topics/Genres assigned to Baldacci’s works in our catalogue.



Step 4. Notice the term “FBI agents” under Topic and “Political thriller” under Genre. Now that we’ve identified controlled vocabulary terms that are used in our catalogue that represent the themes and feel the reader has expressed as an interest, we’re ready to do a search to find similar authors.


Step 5. Let’s try a new search using the controlled vocabulary terms we’ve found. On the main page of the catalogue, enter the terms FBI agents and Political thriller in the search box. While you can also enter the word “AND”, if you do not include it, it is implied in your search.



Step 6. Choose the Fiction format and review your results.


One more search. Genre read-alikes

Step 1. This time, let’s just do a genre search. A list of genres used for Fiction and Non-fiction can be found on Catawiki

Step 2. Once you determine a specific genre or two that you’d like to search, enter the genre(s) into the search box on the main page of Discover and Search!


Step 3. Review the results but take a closer look at the Authors listed under the Refine toolbar on the right-hand side.


Let’s try another one.

On the main page of Discover, let’s use the advanced search to perform a subject search of the genre Historical romance fiction. Look at the authors listed in the Refine toolbar under Authors/Performers. There are over 850 possible options. However, you can limit this list down by choosing a specific library branch location, format, topic, place and so on.


No matter how much you limit, narrow and customize the results to what you want, the key is that as you narrow, the similarity between the books is becoming even more related because you are increasing the amount of access points and information that is shared between the results.



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