MADmatches sounds like an online dating service, and it is, in a way. But instead of matching people with one another, it matches people with books. On Monday, Aug. 11, from 5:30-7:30 pm, Madison Public Library will use its Facebook page to help local readers find the books of their dreams, or maybe just the next good detective story. They might even meet other bibliophiles in the process.
During MADmatches, several MPL librarians log into Facebook and quickly respond to questions left as comments on the page. They ask participants to list three books they like, and based on that information, they use their knowledge and resources to suggest similar titles. Participants will also be able to add their ideas, which could make this edition of MADmatches into a kind of crowdsourcing event.
Why not just ask a local librarian for recommendations in person? Digital Services Manager Tana Elias says MPL is always looking for ways to reach readers who may have trouble getting to the library.
"MADmatches provides a different avenue for librarians to interact with readers," she says.
Elias also views the program as a good way to gauge interest in other kinds of online programs.
"Lots of libraries around the country are doing online outreach, like hosting online book clubs," she points out. MPL hosted the first MADmatches event in February. Elias hopes to eventually offer one every month.
Sites like What Should I Read Next and NoveList (available through the MPL website) also provide book recommendations when users enter a book title into a search engine. These sites use algorithms based on plot keywords to make their suggestions. But they lack the personal touch available from real live librarians, who may be able to pick up nuances about a reader’s tastes that are too subtle for a search engine to detect. And there’s no give and take with a database.
Elias says that during another MADmatches event, librarians sometimes suggested books that the reader had already read. Knowing this, they were able to come up with alternatives.
A library card isn’t needed to take part in MADmatches. Participants do need a Facebook account and must click the "like" button on MPL’s Facebook page.