September 10, 2012 (Portland, Maine) – LibraryThing and Bowker have launched BookPsychic, a new concept in readers advisory — a personal recommender system for libraries. BookPsychic is a service within LibraryThing for Libraries, distributed by Bowker, an affiliate of ProQuest. It went live at its first site earlier this month at Maine's Portland Public Library.
BookPsychic works by inviting library patrons to rate books using an interface that early users felt was familiar and intuitive. Books to rate and recommendations are split into simple genres, like "Recent Fiction," "History" and "Home and Garden." As patrons rate more books, the system learns more and more about their likes and dislikes, enabling the creation of "Just for You" recommendations.
"We are excited about BookPsychic because it fits right in with our library's focus on engaging readers with particularly relevant recommendations for their next read. It's simple, fun, and fast at doing just that," said Sarah Campbell, Head of Lending, Technical Services and Systems at Portland Public Library. "It's good for the library too because BookPsychic recommends what the library actually owns. It's a way for the library to be of immediate service to our community anywhere, all the time."
"BookPsychic isn't just a new service," said Tim Spalding, president of LibraryThing, "It's also a new idea — a recommendation system for single libraries. Commercial websites have such systems, but, useful as they can be, they're about pushing you to buy their products. There's never been something driven by library values and recommending items you can get for free and often that day."
BookPsychic's recommendation system runs off more than 200 million data points from members of LibraryThing.com, a social network for book lovers. It also analyzes book and DVD popularity in the library, and across the more than 300 libraries that use LibraryThing for Libraries. BookPsychic integrates with the social networks Facebook and Twitter for signup, and users can import ratings from LibraryThing.com and Goodreads.
Initial reactions from the library and technology worlds have been positive. Tech publisher and speaker Tim O'Reilly tweeted "More libraries should adopt bookpsychic". Carli Spina of the "Novel Technology" blog wrote "For an automated tool, I think Book Psychic does a surprisingly good job of coming up with personalized book recommendations. I expect that it will be a hit with libraries and patrons alike." Twitter user @ethanharris tweeted "OK, bookpsychic.com is seriously GREAT! The recommendations are spot on. It's like Netflix for my books. Well done."