What to Read Next

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Produced by Zachary Barr

The Denver Public Library’s offering a new service: personalized reading lists. Tell its website what books you like, and the library tells you the titles of other books you might enjoy. CPR's Zachary Barr has more.

[Photo: flickr/faungg]

The following is a transcript of Zachary Barr's story:

Reporter Zachary Barr: This service sounds a lot like the online services offered by NetFlix and other big companies, right? Those websites rely on complex algorithms. Well, in this case, your personalized reading list comes from - a person:

Brett Keniston: My name is Brett Keniston, and I’m a librarian in the Books and Borrowing Department, here at the central library.

Reporter: Brett’s one of fifteen librarians ready to help. Here’s how it works. First you pull up a form on library’s website.

Keniston: And the way the form is set up, it mimics the conversation that we would have in person - to try and get at not only the books that they like or didn’t like but also the reasons the liked and didn’t like that book.

Reporter: Let’s look at an example.

Keniston: Yeah, sure absolutely.

Reporter: Kenniston reads from a submission. This person writes that she’s interested in historical fiction and romance. She says she likes the Outlander and Twilight series, and Jennifer Crusie’s romance novels.

Keniston: So this person did not like The Old Man and the Sea, because it was slow, the considered it boring. They didn’t like Grapes of Wrath, considered it bleak. And so they’re looking for lighter, contemporary romance.

Reporter: Now Keniston’s ready to start his search. Only there’s a hitch. Keniston doesn’t read a lot of romance novels. So what to do. Me? I’d start googling like crazy-man. But a librarian is smarter than that.

Keniston: I would ask co-workers. I would go to the next cubicle over, and ask one of my fellow librarians who reads in this area what she would recommend.

Reporter: In steps librarian Seana O’Grady. And she reads romance. She says the clues tell her this reader might like to try a rising sub-genre: paranormal romance.

O'Grady: Air quotes. Paranormal romance.

Reporter: It’s your traditional romance novel, plus:

O'Grady: Werewolves, vampires, vampires and werewolves, zombies - anything that brings in that supernatural element, it tends to fall under paranormal romance.

Reporter: The librarians throw some other ideas around. Books by Jude Deveraux, Cassandra Clair, Stephanie Plum. Later, after more research, one librarian will sit down and compose a personalized email.

Keniston: Which gives the suggestions, four or five suggestions, it gives a short summary, the reasons why we thought that would be a good fit for them, and then we link to our catalogue so they can check availability or place holds.

Reporter: The service started at the beginning of the month. And, so far, 65 people have used it. If you want to try it yourself, there’s a link on CPR’s website, cpr.org.

Zachary Barr, Colorado Public Radio News