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Appeals: A Building Block for Good Recommendations

Post by Cathleen Keyser
Posted April 10, 2014 in NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News

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Many people are very certain about what genres they want to read while others are more open to new areas, provided that it’s a “good book.”  So how do we make that connection for readers?  How do we get at these “good books”?  At NoveList, one way we do it is by assigning appeal terms in five categories – Storyline, Pace, Tone, Writing Style, and Illustration.  Describing these aspects of a story helps to pair similar books across time periods, genres, and locations.
The goal of appeal terms is to make it as easy as possible for librarians to conduct intuitive searches based on the “feel” of a book -- with the addition of appeal terms it’s possible to do a targeted search for bleak, haunting stories with a lush and lyrical prose style.

How do appeals help with recommendations?

Our headings give us a shared language that we can use to “talk books.”  As Victoria mentioned last month, genres can serve as a useful tool to group books together, and appeals can help narrow these books into categories that will offer a similar experience for readers. For example, some mysteries are gruesome and violent while some are sassy and upbeat, and readers who like the first kind of mystery are probably not interested in the second. 

Having our recommendations algorithm (which we’ll talk more about in a future post) take these factors into account when suggesting your next book to read is an important element in making the strongest possible recommendations. Our catalogers are constantly working to include appeal terms not only on new books being published, but also for older titles (those hidden gems!) so that all of a library’s collection can be promoted.

Being objective about something subjective

How are we able to use a set number of appeal terms to describe an infinite number of books?  After all, isn't appeal subjective, since so much of it depends on the reader's experience?  Our librarians have made a concentrated effort to consult as many resources and points of view as possible when assigning appeal terms to books, authors, and series.  We’re constantly refining our vocabulary and reviewing its application.  This is all in the interest of articulating a shared view of a book's appeal, which will be true for most readers.  

Tips for searching by appeal in NoveList

Check out our latest tutorial: Finding Books Using Appeal

Download a free copy of our booklet, The Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Appeal

Cathleen Keyser is the Collection Development Coordinator at NoveList.

Victoria Caplinger is the Adult Cataloging Supervisor at NoveList.