Friday, October 3, 2008

Use NoveList to Pick Your Next Read

I'd like to let you in on a secret. A confession, if you will. You know how you can tell a librarian the last book or two that you read, and, based on that, the librarian can suggest another book or two that you'll probably like? (If you don't, you should give it a try -- it's impressive!) Well, as much as we'd like everyone to believe that we've read every book in the library, that would be impossible. As in just about everything else we do, librarians rely on a combination of our own knowledge and a reliable set of tools to make book recommendations.

We here in the Magazines and Newspaper Center mostly leave book recommendations to the experts in other departments in the library, but we do feel strongly about connecting people with the things they like to read. That's why we're spilling the beans and sharing the treasure-trove of book and author information known as NoveList.

The beauty of NoveList starts with a huge database of records for popular fiction books. Each record has the usual parts-- author, title, publication information, ISBN -- but also book reviews, a link that will automatically search our library catalog to see if we have any copies of the books, and, most importantly, a long list of subject headings.

NoveList uses a bunch of these subject headings (if you're not fluent in librarianese, think of subject headings as tags) so that each book has a pretty specific profile. Here's where the magic happens: NoveList will, at your request, try to match the dozen or so subject headings that a book will generally have with others, and deliver to you a list of other books with a similar group of subjects. You can also choose to exclude certain subjects in the search. That means that if you like Gone with the Wind, but don't care much for the Southern setting, you can choose to exclude that but still retain books that are similar in other ways.

There are plenty of other useful features to this database, including author biographies, recommended titles, guides for book group discussion, and "read-alikes," which are staff-generated lists of books that appeal to similar tastes.

While we work on reading our way through the collection, you should check out NoveList. To access the database, visit our Articles and Databases page and scroll down a bit -- it's in the Literature and Books category. You'll see two versions of NoveList, one for adults and one for kids and teens. If you're not in the library, the database will prompt you to enter your library card number. Once you're in, get ready to discover more books than you'll ever be able to read.

And don't forget that this weekend Litquake launches its 7th annual literary festival with its "Off the Richter Scales" readings to be held in the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Public Library.

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