Anyone who has ever bought a book online is familiar with recommendation engines that say “if you like this book, you may also like these other titles.” But now libraries are getting in on the automated Readers Advisory act, in person, thanks to NoveList and 3M Library Systems.
For libraries that use both services, items checked out using the new Quick Connect interface for 3M SelfCheck will trigger a NoveList search, enabling SelfCheck screens to display reading recommendations limited to items that are owned by the patron’s library. During the checkout process, patrons will be invited to place a hold on any featured item, receive the recommendations via email, or print the recommendations on their receipt. 3M will debut the new feature at the 2013 American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago.
Increasingly, library patrons are learning about new books and authors from sources other than their library, explained Duncan Smith, vice president of NoveList. While readers can still discover new authors and titles by browsing the stacks or asking a librarian, many are using social media tools, public book review sites such as goodreads, or other avenues for discovering content. As the book discovery landscape becomes more fragmented, this new reader recommendation feature aims to connect patrons with a library’s broader collection, and reinforce the library’s role as an institution that can help users discover new content.
“In the same way that Novelist has begun delivering reading recommendations into library catalogs—so that when patrons go to put a hold on a book, they’re presented with other options that might interest them—another touchpoint, and an important touchpoint, is when they’re actually checking out the material itself,” Smith told LJ.
At many libraries with 3M SelfCheck systems, 80 percent of circulation transactions pass through self-service stations, according to a press announcement. This new feature will enable libraries to offer reading recommendations to patrons who may not interact with library staff.
“The SelfCheck kiosk is typically the last interaction the patron has with the library before leaving, so it’s important to us to take advantage of those moments and leave a lasting impression,” said Carolyn Anthony, director of the Skokie (IL) Public Library, which offered feedback to 3M while the new interface was being developed. “The new interface lets us promote more of our offerings, and tools like Recommended Reads help us deliver a high level of service to patrons to keep them coming back.”
One patron agreed that the checkout transaction presents a great opportunity to grab a reader’s attention and offer suggestions. “When I pick up a requested book from the library, it’s a book I already believe I’ll enjoy,” Donnabeth Leffler, a businesswoman and patron of the Chapel Hill (NC) Public Library, said in a prepared comment. “If NoveList could recommend future books based on that request, I’d be quite likely to pursue them. The perfect spot for this would be the equivalent of the ‘point-of-sale’ on the piece of paper that announces my hold or, digitally, when I go to check it out.”
In addition to the reader recommendation feature, the new SelfCheck interface includes several other enhancements. It can be easily customized with background images, screen colors, and logos that reflect a library’s branding. Based on feedback from libraries, the 3M team has also introduced a new function that will enable patrons to enlarge the type on the SelfCheck display or switch languages during any point of the SelfCheck transaction.
Another new feature, “Patron Promos,” will enable libraries to use the SelfCheck screen and receipts to highlight services and upcoming events as patrons are checking out.
“It’s a natural way that we’re able to expose additional services that the library offers, enhancing the way that they’re connecting to their community,” Matt Bellamy product manager, 3M Library Systems, told LJ. Anecdotally, libraries that participated in alpha testing of the new interface said that programs advertised on checkout receipts had generated a high volume of inquiries compared with programs advertised exclusively in a library’s newsletter and onsite bulletin boards, he added.
“Over the past three years we’ve really been focusing on finding new ways to expand the self-checkout product—most importantly, relevant ways to [improve] it in a library environment,” Bellamy said. “There’s a lot of different things that you could potentially add to a self-checkout machine, but the most important thing …is that [patrons] check out their books and they do it quickly. Balancing what features to add while still providing that expedited transaction is not easy, but we’re really proud of what we’ve been able to do.”