What to Borrow Next at Your Library

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Not sure what to borrow? Start by letting the librarian lend you a helping hand
By Laura Schlereth

Sometimes when we finish reading a book or watching a movie, we love it so much that we want to learn more about its subjects. But, this begs the question: What do you borrow next? Luckily, there are resources that many libraries offer to help you decide.

Try the classic: asking a librarian for his or her professional opinion. They love to help, and it’s part of their job to be familiar with the library’s collection. It’s called “readers’ advisory.”

“We’re all trained in reference,” says Dorothy Fitts, head librarian at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library in Mississippi. “Librarians can help [people] find things they can’t get off the Internet or Google.”

Usually, a librarian will ask you questions about what you like or make suggestions based on what’s popular in your age group. The book Girl with a Pearl Earring became more popular after the release of the 2003 film of the same title starring Scarlett Johansson, says Fitts. If you liked that movie, Fitts also recommends Brush with Fate, which follows the history of a painting believed to have been created by Vermeer, who painted the Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Fitts’ library even has a section called “Staff Picks” that features movies, books, audio books and CDs chosen as favorites by the staff.

Search Engines
There are many library resources that allow you to narrow your search quickly. See if your library offers one of these:

For Books
Booklist Online – a review journal published by the American Library Association.
Users can search for books by subject matter or appeal factors, such as ‘complex characters’ or ‘fast-paced.’ Kaite Mediatore Stover, head of reader services at the Kansas City Public Library in Missouri, says she likes the service because it’s user-friendly and narrows searches well.

NoveList – available through an Ebscohost subscription. Check to see if your local library subscribes.
This search engine offers features such as “Read Alike,” which recommends authors based on what the user already likes. The State Library of Kansas subscribes to NoveList, and Patti Butcher, Director of Statewide Resource Sharing, says users find it to be a great tool. “Schools use it a lot to do research on authors,” she says.

“Books in Series” – a search engine offered by The Nebraska Library Commission in Nebraska.
This unique search engine gives full series lists of book series. “I’m really drawn to lots of adventures with the same characters, and I want to read them in order,” says Director of Information Services Lisa Kelly. “[This service] makes certain I can accomplish that.”

For Programs
Many times, we’re inspired by what we read, watch or listen to, and it makes us want to try something new. Does listening to Beyoncé’s hit song “Single Ladies” make you want to take dancing lessons? Or did watching the film Julie & Julia inspire you to try cooking? Your library may offer an array of classes that can help you get started. To help your search, check whether your library offers a service like the Mid-Hudson Library System’s EZ Library Program Directory, which allows people to search for programs in the Mid-Hudson region in New York based on a list of topics they can choose from, such as “dance” or “cooking.”

For Trying a New Medium
The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) sponsors the WorldCat network, which serves as an online catalog for materials in libraries around the world. The comprehensive Web site gives you a list of materials in various mediums that match keywords you type in.

For example, if you love listening to the band The Rolling Stones, a keyword search will not only bring up their albums, but also related books, DVDs and audio books. You can enhance your experience by reading the autobiography According to the Rolling Stones, written by the band, or by watching the 2008 Martin Scorcese film Shine a Light, which documents the band preparing for a benefit concert.

See if your library’s Web site has online reviews posted by librarians or patrons. Virginia Beach Public Library in Virginia, broadcasts a podcast series “Recommended Reads.” Cynthia Hart, virtual librarian with Virginia Beach, says that in each of the three- to four- minute podcasts, a small number of staff members discuss a book, audio book or movie.

In addition to the podcasts, Virginia Beach offers a blog for people to connect over books or movies that they recently experienced. Users can also rate and leave a comment on anything in the library’s catalog using a review system called “Chili Fresh.”

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