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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Librarian-- Personal Reading Suggestions From Multnomah County Public Library

Yesterday, I attended Duncan Smith's presentation on "Whole Person" RA. I tweeted out some of what he said here, and in the coming days, I will be sharing the handouts and the link to the recording of the presentation itself.

But in the meantime, I wanted to explore a specific library example he gave that is a great way to offer personalized RA services that will work for a range of patrons. It is called My Librarian and it is a service offered by The Multnomah County Public Library in Oregon.

Here a screen shot of one of the librarians listed on the page. [Yes I picked the one who likes horror.]

The entire My Librarian page is made up of these entries with a picture, the librarian’s name, his or her “likes” and a link to his or her recommendations.

There is also that great “Ask Alicia T what to read" button, which brings you to a screen where you can contact the librarian in your communication preference of choice. As you can see from the next screen shot.

There are a few things I love about this service that I want to point out.

Let’s start with the obvious first.  This is a wonderful, personalized service. They are sharing staff favorites in a fun way that encourages interaction between the library and its patrons.

Second, it’s the interaction part that they really nail. When Duncan talked about serving patrons based on how they want to be helped he identified 4 main patron interaction types:

  1. "high touch" and have lots of time
  2. "high touch" and have no time
  3. “low touch” and have lots of time
  4. “low touch” and have no time
The My Librarians web page allows for all 4 types to be served.  Think about the high touch/lot of time patrons who would love a video chat with the librarian, or can use the webpage to identify the librarian they want to talk to who they can then seek out in person. Or the low touch/no time patrons who want a reading suggestion and can use email to get one.

Third, and this is just awesome, I visited the site at work and then later from home, and the librarians themselves were in a different order each time.  I love that the site shuffles the order. Some people never scroll down on a page. This allows people to encounter a “new” librarian at the top of the page each time they click through.

Finally, it's all easy to find right from the main page of the website. It is highlighted front and center. As Duncan also mentioned in his presentation, their user studies showed that for many patrons, their first interaction with the library is through its website. And since READING is our business, putting reading suggestions front and center, in this interactive way is brilliant.

You need to click through and see how great My Librarian is. It’s all about serving leisure readers and it is driven by the librarians themselves, their interests, and their sense of humor.  Any library could do a version of this. Your staff is an asset.  Use them to help your patrons better.

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