Monday, March 10, 2014

Broken discovery systems and hand-selling books

I have more than four hundred feeds in my RSS readers, an embarrassing number of them publishers, library, or book blogger sites, and I receive about a half-dozen subscriptions to print publications related to reviewing books, but I miss things.

At our last meeting of the Young Adult Services Round Table of the Alabama Library Association, talk turned, as it often does, to what we were reading, and the other three librarians there started talking about Wash, historical fiction by Birmingham native Margaret Wrinkle. It came out last February, but I hadn't even heard of it. As they sat bobbing their heads, I ordered it on the spot.

I can't believe it hasn't garnered more attention as a Twelve Years read-alike. And anyone buying Twelve Years? Crazy.

I mention this because it occurs to me that there will always be a place for personal recommendations, and for actual reading librarians to supply them. I often balk about how poor the mechanized recommender systems in place seem to be. I had ordered all the Susan Hill books from Amazon, but they didn't suggest her latest title?  Machine intelligence certainly can't predict what we will want, even based on what we've liked in the past.

Anyway, Wash was pretty incredible, with lots of evident research into the peculiar institution and the problem of bloodlines. And I'm still a little flummoxed that I never even ran across it. I have to thank those librarians for calling it to my attention.

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