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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Patron Participation in Year End Best Lists Featuring Goodreads and NPR Best Books Concierge

Tomorrow I will be presenting my second annual Best Books webinar for PLA members. One of the main points I will be making in that presentation is that you need to gather "best" opinions from as many people as possible in order to be able to help everyone find the right "best" book for them.

One of the largest "best" opinions we as library workers are bad at gathering is from our own patrons. Sure we check circulation statistics all of the time, but that just tells us what is checked out the most. It does not tell us which items our patrons most enjoyed. That more important information is much harder to gather.

In the webinar, I will be giving you some ideas on how to encourage patron participation in creating a picture of what is "best" at your library. But, I also know that some of my ideas may be pushing the envelope for some libraries. There may be institutional barriers that don't allow for my suggestions to be used at your library.

However that doesn't mean you have to give up. One of the best reader driven best lists that every single one of you can access came out today...

CLICK HERE to access the full list
The Goodreads Best Books of 2016, the only major year end book award that is 100% reader driven.

So if you cannot poll your own patrons easily, use their poll.

This list is a wonderful tool for many other reasons too.

First, they do multiple rounds of voting and narrow down the final ballot in a way allows some smaller titles, missed by all other best lists, to be in contention. This also means that the titles on the final voting lists are proven winners. These are books you can confidently use as a sure bet to suggest to a reader. It is not just some newspaper critic who liked it, it was a real reader, just like the patron in front of you. And with vote total for all finalists given, its not just 1 reader, its hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands for some) that enjoyed it.

[Okay, that paragraph had like 3 or 4 reasons, moving on...]

Second, they have many genre categories which means we can also use each genre list of finalists and winners as a sure bet for genre fans.

Third, even nonfiction is broken down into six separate categories which is rare in best lists. Again giving us more lists of winners and finalists to use as sure bets for our readers with a particular reading interest like "Science and Technology." Now instead of 1 S&T title appearing in a general, nonfiction best list, you get 20!

Finally, even though I feel like I sound like a broken record, don't forget the backlist of previous award winners and nominees. Goodreads has every year's list [since 2009!] linked at the bottom of the front page of this year's list.  Any or all of those titles are a great place to start when you are looking for sure bet title suggestions for any type of reader.

Another resource I love that is not as overtly reader driven is the NPR Best Books Concierge. This list is a favorite of mine because it puts all of the best books into a single pile and then allows the user of the list to customize the results-- thus making the results list reader driven.

I also enjoy how they filters are not just genre labels, but rather, based on actual reader tastes.  So, you can click on "the dark side," and get a list of 67 choices, and then go even deeper by adding the "rather long" filter on top of it and get 7 choices.

That list can be created by one reader. But another could apply the filters,  "funny stuff" and "for music lovers" and get these 3 completely different-- yet still "best"-- titles. Each list is "best" for the reader in question. No need to worry about creating a one size fits all best list.

I love that readers can interact with the NPR Best Books Concierge and make themselves the perfect list of the year's "best" offering.

And like Goodreads, they also have the backlist concierges available for browsing-- right at the top of the page! These older lists are just as useful as we help patrons. In fact, I refer to previous year's concierge's all of the time, no matter the season. I often walk through them with a reader in front of me to help them pinpoint the type of book they are looking for using the natural language filters. From there I often branch out to other resources, but any of the concierges makes for a great RA conversation starting point with a reader who is having trouble expressing what they are looking for.

I hope this post inspires you to figure out a way to incorporate reader participation in year end best lists. Or, at least gets you to think about these two resources from a patron participation perspective.

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