UNUSUALLY INTERESTING LIBRARY WEB PAGES: MORTON GROVE PUBLIC LIBRARY'S WEBRARY
The remarkable and pleasing thing about this web site is the extent to which it is used in the service of reading. The site is a virtual love poem to books -- the first of the four categories of information on the cleanly designed home page is Reader's Services.
Those services include several book discussion groups: All Booked Up, the Low Vision book group, and the Thinking Out Loud book group. There's a nice set of bibliographies and pathfinders on a wide variety of subjects -- romantic suspense, car buying, genealogy, science fiction, breast cancer, etc. The Web Sites for Book Lovers page is thorough, and each site is described fully.
But those are things other libraries do, sometimes equally well. What is unique about the Webrary is that, as the home of Fiction-L, it posts the Fiction-L booklists. These are lists that really zero in on reader preferences. As we all know, the fact we like murder mysteries in general does not mean we'll like all varieties; we might despise cozy British mysteries, or have a taste for funny mysteries. We might like romantic suspense but despise regencies.
The Fiction-L lists get down to the elements within the genre that appeal to people. The lists include highly specific genres like Asian Magical Realism for High School Kids, Genealogy Mysteries, Little Old Lady Sleuths, Cat Mysteries, and Manly Men Doing Manly Things Manfully (a little tongue-in-cheek, are we?).
There are lists of books involving particular character types, like Adventurous Women, Bumbling Detectives, Forensic Pathologists, Pioneer Women, Inspirational Teachers, Positive Middle Aged Characters (thanks, we needed that!), etc. There are lists of books involving particular times and places -- Humorous Historicals, Irish Fiction, Mysteries Set in Africa, Village Life, Road Novels, and such. There are topical lists -- Fiction Based on Real Events, Circus Books, Computers in Fiction, Environmental Disasters, Multigenerational Fictions, Laugh Out Loud, and more. And there are books similar to particular authors: Bridget Jones Readalikes, Neal Stephenson Readalikes, Terry McMillan Readalikes, etc. There are "Best" lists, and a Miscellaneous collection that includes Books To Movies, Book Discussion Groups, Tear Jerkers, One Day Reads for the Beach.
The same enthusiasm for books is manifest on the Kids Webrary page, which is also filled with book lists: books for boys, books for girls, books about Talking Animals, or Young Inventors and Detectives, Horses, Sports (a very extensive and detailed list, sorted by individual sport), and more.
OK, so maybe other libraries do this sort of thing too. But the kicker is this: the award-winning MatchBook program: "The Morton Grove Public Library's exclusive MatchBook service provides Library users with monthly lists of the Library's new purchases (books and audio-visual materials) customized to each subscriber's specific interests." Patrons just fill in the form to create a profile of their reading interests.
The site provides a very useful backgrounder on the city and government of Morton Grove. Since the town now has a significant Russian population, the web site offers another unique feature: a Russian Webrary.
What's really extraordinary about the Morton Grove web site? The beauty of the web is that a site like this, while serving its own community, can also serve readers, and those who want their children to be readers, everywhere. We can all use these wonderful reading lists. We might also want to consider whether we could adapt the MatchBook program to our own customers. And if we do, we should send a note of heartfelt appreciation to the web team at Morton Grove Public Library.
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By the end of the novel, the missing chums were missing no more, and the Hardy Boys had once again earned their names. And I was reminded again of the magical, transforming power of books, their ability to transport us beyond our puny lives and to shape the very texture of our personalities. But unlike so many other formative influences in our lives, books don't change over the years. No wrecking ball or bulldozer can demolish their place in the world. They lie waiting for us, constant, neatly arranged on the shelves, all their marvels intact, their stories and characters as supple and energetic as they were forty years ago. A voice that stirred us once, whispered dreams to our younger selves, is still there waiting, ready to whisper once again.
James W. Hall. "The Hardy Boys." In Hot Damn! St. Martin's, 2002
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