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Today’s guest blogger is Paul Hayes, a readers’ advisory expert at the Vancouver Public Library.

With many years of experience providing readers’ advisory services under my belt, I often find good-old intuition to be my tool of choice. Much, of course, depends on the right question asked at the right time. Print resources are usually my next best choice.

As well as print resources, there are several online sources that I have found useful. Novelist and Fiction Connection will be familiar to readers of this blog and, like me, you’ve probably been bemused / frustrated by some of the dated author/title readalike suggestions. Another problem I’ve encountered is recommendations for novels by Canadian, Australian etc authors based solely on common nationality rather than “appeal terms.”

I decided to broaden my approach from subscription databases and look at some of the online literary social networking sites. Sites such as LibraryThing, Shelfari, and Good Readsare three that can be useful for readers’ advisory. I’m occasionally puzzled by some of the recommendations for readalikes. How are these recommendations devised? What algorithm is used? Are titles considered a good match based on sales figures? The same two titles being purchased by the same person? Titles with film adaptations all released in the same year? Nationality of the author? Frankly, it’s a bit of a puzzle. I wonder if someone would like to address this topic in a future blog article.

Here are a few sites that might enjoy:

BookLamp
http://booklamp.org/

This site is part of the Book Gnome Project and it analyzes book content in very quirky ways to create the book’s DNA. It does not promote itself as a source of readalikes, but rather a source to find good books period. That said, elements in the books DNA are linked to other titles with the same element. Check out Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. One DNA element is “deviance.” Click and you will see a list of other titles containing this element. Read the site’s FAQs for more detail.

Gnooks
http://www.gnooks.com/

Suggestions, forums and more. I like to use the “Map of Literature” feature which allows you to type in an author’s name and see a spider graph of authors with some commonality. Try Anais Nin for example.

Book Psychic
http://www.bookpsychic.com/

Powered by LibraryThing this tool can be linked to your library’s catalogue for recommendations based on titles you own. I usually piggy-back on Portland Public Library when searching the site. On the homepage choose United States then Portland.
You will be asked to rate (or not) titles in a variety of fiction genres as well as non-fiction topics. A record is kept of the number of titles you have rated in each category. Once you have rated a few, you can click on the “Just For You” recommendations. This is a fun site for staff and patrons alike. Also includes ebook and audiobook suggestions.

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