April 2016 | Volume XXXIV, Issue 2 »

Book Genie Grants Your Reading Wishes

March 21, 2016
Sharon Hrycewicz and Nicole Wilhelms, Downers Grove Public Library

HOW BOOK GENIE CAME TO BE

In the fall of 2013, the Downers Grove Public Library embarked on the challenge of updating our library website. We were also working toward fulfilling a major strategy of our 2012-2014 Strategic Plan, “to maintain a focus on books and reading.”As a result, we transitioned from a lengthy online readers’ advisory form that saw minimal use to an interactive process that provides customers with instant suggestions. We developed Book Genie, a readers’ advisory quiz for kids, teens, and adults. You will find it at www.dglibrary.org/genie.

Launched in February 2014, Book Genie provides advice to readers in a flexible web format. Resembling an online quiz, it helps construct individualized reading recommendations. As the reader clicks through a series of book covers, Book Genie generates instant suggestions responding to the reader’s expressed interests and preferences. These suggestions link directly to the library’s catalog, providing what every good genie aspires to—immediate wish-fulfillment! Staff librarians choose all Book Genie books, and organize them in comprehensive categories, beginning with children, teens, and adults. Visitors who do not find something interesting among the Book Genie suggestions can fill out a form that librarians respond to via e-mail with further reading ideas.

RELEASING THE GENIE

To introduce this exciting new service, Book Genie was heavily publicized as part of the new website launch. In addition to social media, library staff actively promoted Book Genie at school visits, teacher in-service trainings, farmers’ markets, and in-house. On Book Genie’s first birthday, we did a library-wide, month-long promotional push. We purchased three custom Book Genie cardboard standees for display throughout the library, gave away mints branded with the Book Genie logo, and featured Book Genie on the library’s homepage, newsletter, and social media outlets.

Service desks also handed out evaluation forms asking a few simple questions about Book Genie. Survey responses ran the gamut from patrons responding that they had not heard of Book Genie to patrons who loved it and wanted to see more categories. These responses helped readers discover the new tool, informed future updates to Book Genie, and allowed staff to assess the impact of an interactive digital readers’ advisory service. We found that the majority of our customers enjoyed this fun approach. As one library user wrote, “It’s a great start to finding new books. Brings up suggestions I would never have seen!”

IT’S NOT ALL MAGIC

Book Genie is a custom Drupal module developed by web developer Sean Fitzpatrick of Proof Studio, in conjunction with our digital librarian. Built using Drupal’s taxonomy structure, genres and titles are organized in a hierarchical tree. The templates render each taxonomy term to display the associated cover image and title. To keep its content fresh, Book Genie categories and titles are updated at least three times a year. Children’s titles are listed by genre and arranged by grade level, including picture books, easy chapter books, and chapter books. Children’s staff select titles throughout the year. As new book carts come to the department, staff identify books that fit into nine Book Genie categories, keeping track in a Google doc. When the deadline for new titles looms, we look at the doc and decide what areas need attention and assign staff to fill in any holes. By making Book Genie an on-going assignment using a working document, staff have integrated Book Genie into their weekly workflow.

Teen and adult titles are delineated by fiction and nonfiction, breaking out into genres and subjects. Adult and Teen Services (ATS) staff spend three weeks compiling titles into a Google doc. We started by assigning a team of three to four staff to complete each Book Genie update, but recently we have included all ATS staff to assist in each update. Once titles are selected, PR and IT staff spend an additional two weeks updating the website with new selections.

EVALUATING BOOK GENIE

Now in its third year, Book Genie continues to be popular, with over 7,800 page views in 2015! Library staff utilize Google Analytics to understand how patrons are using Book Genie and to adapt to meet patron interests by reviewing category popularity. Before each Book Genie update, staff review which categories to remove and select ones to feature. Popular topics include historical fiction, book club favorites, memoirs and biographies, teen dystopian, kids fantasy, and librarian picks. Over the last two years, staff have adjusted the quiz structure and added more read-alike categories such as “If you liked NPR’s Serial ....” During Academy Awards season, we developed a spin-off called Movie Genie, and to support our “League of Super Heroes” summer reading club theme, a Super Genie option was offered. Both proved popular with customers.

Since its inception, Book Genie has granted over 3,500 book wishes. Not only does Book Genie provide instant book suggestions to patrons, but it also enhances a reading-focused strategic plan. Staff enjoy selecting titles and patrons are able to interact with an engaging book service.

May all your reading wishes be granted!

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