When Heather Cover chose a seat for a session at the American Library Association Annual Conference in 2018, she had no idea it would change her life.
Cover, a former librarian for Homewood Public Library and winner of the Alabama Library Association’s Eminent Librarian Award, sat next to a NoveList employee. They started talking about books (because, of course!). By the time the session ended, Heather had an offer to apply to be a NoveList Advisor.
Fast forward four years and Heather has a new role for NoveList as a BookChat Specialist. Heather is part of a special team of experts that power BookChat, which provides reading suggestions and advice on the spot using a chat widget that integrates with a library’s NoveList Plus subscription. BookChat Specialists provide quick, on-demand answers perfect for patrons in a hurry or who prefer to engage with the library online.
“A chat book recommendation works the same way as it would in person,” explains Heather. “Once someone asks for a recommendation, I ask relevant questions to gauge reading level, content specifications, preferences, and what else they might have read and enjoyed. As they answer, I work in the NoveList database, plugging in their responses and narrowing down the search. Once I have a few titles or authors, I respond in the chat with the information and a brief description of why they might enjoy that author/title.”
Heather’s background working with children, teens, and adults at a library comes in handy during her chats. So does her former experience as a book reviewer and judge for local and national writing contests. She knows her stuff! And her expertise helps her find great books for both patrons and library staff.
“My favorite BookChat interaction so far is one that bridged my time working with teens and adults,” recalled Heather. “A librarian chatted in to find titles for a patron who loved Twilight as a teen, but now that they were an adult, they could not find anything that hit those same buttons. I used Twilight as a starting point, added in my knowledge as a librarian and a paranormal romance reader, and was able to find several authors and series in NoveList that the reader had not yet tried.”
Heather and the other BookChat Specialists are on call during the evenings and weekends when patrons and libraries need a little extra help. They can help patrons and staff inside and outside the library’s physical walls.
“I used NoveList many years ago as a librarian,” explained Heather. “At that time, I absolutely loved the basic readers’ advisory function that helped me explore genres and authors I didn't know or didn't read regularly. It kept me from looking clueless at the desk when people asked me about read-alikes for well-known authors or when they wanted to know the next book in a series I didn't know anything about!”
“My absolute favorite library memories are the ones that involve connecting readers with books. Whether it's the years I spent book-talking to seventh graders at our local middle school or helping adults, teens, and kids and their parents find the right book in the library, the excitement I felt when I saw that book click with the reader was the biggest adrenaline rush. Even better were the times those readers came back and asked for me because they loved what I recommended.”
When she’s not answering BookChat questions, Heather is working through her TBR. She is currently reading Best Served Hot by Amanda Elliot, a romantic comedy by the author of Sadie on a Plate that's due to be published in February 2023. She’s also listening to Killer Clown by Terry Sullivan for her True Crime Book Club. And she recently finished American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America's Jack the Ripper by Daniel Stashower.
“I speak for all the BookChat Specialists when I say that we truly enjoy helping people find books and authors that suit their reading needs. But there is a downside. Every time I do a search, I find something I want to read, and my to-read list is getting out of control!”
Angela Hursh is the Manager of Engagement and Marketing for NoveList. She is currently reading Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee.