Update on the In the Stacks Book Recommendation App

So what’s going on with the ITS app, anyway? Let me see….

You may have noticed the introduction of the new product from In the Stacks, the Librarian Brain. It’s a database of books reviewed by librarians. We’re compiling the data in a MySQL database, and this is what powers the web and mobile apps In the Stacks.

We’ve decided to run a private beta for the In the Stacks app, so we can do A/B testing on several different search scenarios within the Librarian Brain. Namely, experiments ranking the tallied book review data, using a basic recommender algorithm (we’re using the open source H20 product from 0xdata as the data dashboard over MySQL via Python) to give recs based on the bottom third, and using ensemble and semantic search strategies. We’re essentially mapping Librarian brains based on the data we’ve collected. After we run testing and land on search results we think are good enough to start with, we’ll begin training the data using machine learning and artificial intelligence, to encourage the database to think like a Librarian Brain, and provide the best book recommendations.

If the user is logged in, the app and Librarian List widget will combine the book suggestions from the Librarian Brain with user preferences, to provide Top 5 Picks personalized especially for them. If no user is logged in, the list will be a general Top 5 Book Picks at that point in time. We landed on this product 18 months ago and I’ve followed through with building it because I truly see the value in using librarian book recommendations to refine book discovery within a larger search engine.

That’s all I can share for now. Anyway, we need time to test this, and will use our appearances at conferences in the coming months to gather more beta tester users.

We’ve also reassessed our money-making options regarding which products realistically have the better chance of attracting users and turning a profit. Mobile apps don’t earn money unless they go viral, and an app sitting in the app stores priced at $.99 probably isn’t going to get noticed.

So, we’re offering a consumer-facing Librarian List of Top 5 Picks generated by the Librarian Brain, that can be installed within a digital experience. Bloggers, publishers, bookstores, authors, booklovers, and big enterprise clients can all partner with us to earn sales on any books sold. Booklovers will see the Librarian List everywhere (we hope!). Other options for products generated by the Librarian Brain seem endless, and we hope libraries will benefit, too.

The apps and the subscription-based Librarian List will be available in Fall 2015—or earlier, if you want to donate and be a beta tester! Or already have  [:)]

Please spread the word and donate to In the Stacks crowdfunder and help us bring the Librarian Brain to life. THANK YOU. I love you xo—Michelle Z. from the In the Stack.tv