August 3, 2016

Browsing with metadata

It’s not every day that the power of metadata gets a chance to shine. In Lynn Lobash’s recent Library Journal article “The Case for Informed Browsing,” she talks about Netflix browse lanes, stating that “these niche categories are built by a team of viewers armed with a controlled vocabulary.”

Lobash defines “browse lanes” as appeal mixed with some subset of subject, genre, literary form, setting, etc. -- essentially, a group of books brought together in original and often unexpected combinations. As manager of NoveList’s metadata department, it’s exciting to be able to share the good news -- much of what Lobash suggests as new and innovative ways of presenting books together can easily be achieved by some simple searches in NoveList. Combined with your book-savvy ideas about interesting groupings that will resonate with your patrons, a whole new world of book discovery awaits!

In developing literary browse lanes, Lobash directs her readers to scour reviews for hints to appeal language -- offering strategies to search for synonyms of things like fast-paced or character-driven to get at the books you are looking for. In this regard, the power of a controlled vocabulary serves us well -- you can use NoveList appeal terms and skip the step of extracting this information from reviews (our own team of metadata librarians has eagerly embraced this challenge to help you in your work).

How to get started? I’d first point you to the “I’m in the mood for…” section of the NoveList home page. We regularly feature different appeal combinations – everything from Offbeat & Action-packed to Melancholy & Lyrical -- that present lists of books together, irrespective of subject or genre. Readers can help themselves to this kind of searching as well. For readers (or librarian-readers!) wanting to develop their own appeal combos, try the appeal mixer -- you can search for combinations of up to three different appeal terms, and then can narrow results by genre, subject, location, or -- newly added -- time period!


Another strategy might be to start with a known genre or subject. Do a broad search, and then narrow by genre, tone, or any of the other facets available to you on the result list. If you want to start with genre, check out our genre browse pages (available through audience-specific links on the home page). For example, select adult genres, then choose Historical fantasy from the Fantasy genre browse page, which gives you 955 results. To narrow further, choose Romantic from the appeal options on the left. There’s your literary browse lane -- Romantic Historical Fantasy. You can rename this if you like -- how about Love & Magic in Bygone Eras?

It’s the metadata that gives rise to a truly endless list of possibilities. At NoveList, we’ve consistently sought to enhance and expand the readers’ advisory tools contained within our book records -- from rich subject cataloging to appeal to genres and sub-genres. Our goal is to give librarians and readers the tools they need to explore the world of reading in new and exciting ways.

Victoria Caplinger is the Data Manager at NoveList.

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