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Getting Smart about Series

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7 months 3 weeks ago #1135 by SamLundberg
This is a guest post by Sam Lundberg - Reader Advisor...

This is a guest post by Sam Lundberg - Reader Advisor for the New Mexico State Library for the Blind & Print Disabled, and current President of the KLAS Development Advisory Committee.

We’ve had a lot of interest recently from across the community for Nightly AutoSelect to be more “series smart,” and not send book 3 in a series before a patron has had book 1.  I’m among the chorus that’s been asking for this since the beginning of DoD, but I think it is worth talking about exactly how we want this to work.  There are a lot of different ways that Nightly could be series smart, each with a different impact on the patron experience.

I’m going to lay out a few of the ways that I’ve thought of, along with advantages and possible drawbacks. I’d love to hear what others have been thinking on this subject, and I’m sure Keystone would appreciate knowing exactly what we want, rather than a vague mission to make it better.

As a preface, I have no idea how practical any of these solutions are from a programming side.  I’ve tried to lay out specific rules that an algorithm could follow, but that doesn’t mean they would be easy, or even possible, to put in place.  Some of these rules may also bog Nightly down to a crawl, requiring more time to run each night.  This is a thought exercise to figure out exactly what we, as a community, want, rather than a menu of actual possibilities.

Option 1 

1a) “First in the series only”

  • When Nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “series sequence” field and excludes any book with a value greater than 1.

This is basically what is accomplished by libraries that use a “Sequel” subject code.  Autoselect wouldn’t send out any sequels, which would exclude a large number of books from popular authors who write primarily or exclusively series. For context, I just ran a query and found that 321 of the 564 mystery titles we’ve added this year have a series sequence between 2 and 999.

Since this would be based on a Nightly setting, it would be library-wide rather than patron by patron.  However, if KLAS also adds the ability to customize Nightly Functions by Serve Code, you could create an “AutoSelect No Sequels” serve code and an “AutoSelect All” serve code and select the appropriate one for each patron.

1b) “First or next in series only”

  • When Nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “series sequence” field and excludes any book with a value greater than 1 UNLESS the patron has a “HasHad” for the previous book in the series..

Like 1a, except that subsequent books in a series can be sent if the patron is caught up in that series.  This would help increase the available possible selections for series-heavy genres like Mystery.  However, there is no mechanism for a patron to catch up on a series once they have missed a book, or for new patrons to get started on a long-standing series, without a specific request or Series preference.


Option 2

2a) “Not this book, but this series”

  • When Nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “series” field and instead sends out the earliest book in that series not marked as “Has Had”.

The idea here is that, instead of sending out book 7 in a series, Nightly would go back and send out book 1 (or book 5 if the patron had the first four books already).  This method would ensure that patrons are still able to access series books, but will always do so in order.

However, because the book Nightly initially found isn’t being sent out, there is no “Has Had” record added to that title, so Nightly will keep finding that book and sending books from that series over and over and over.  How much of a problem this is will be very contextually dependent.  If you use “Latest First” service for Subject, the books Nightly finds will change constantly.  

But if you use “Earliest First” and don’t update your KLAS ID Ranges often, then nightly will check the same books every time.  For instance, if your KLAS ID range starts at DB090000, Nightly will find Joanne Fluke and Stuart Woods at 90001 & 90002 respectively, so patrons with a mystery Subject preference would receive those entire series in rapid succession under this scheme.  And given the prevalence of this sort of long-standing series, patrons may receive a large number of older titles as they are bumped back 20, 30, 50 books in a series.

2b) “Not this book, but where I left off this series”

  • When nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “Series” field, locates the item with the highest series sequence in that series with a “Has Had” record, and sends the next book.

2a would fill in gaps if a patron skipped books or started with book 15. 2b wouldn’t fill in gaps, but would select the next book after the highest numbered book the patron has read.

For example, if a patron has read books 1, 2, 4, and 8 in a series and Nightly wants to send them book 10, 2a would instead send book 3, while 2b would send out book 9.


Option 3

3a) “Not this book, but this series, but not too often”

  • When Nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “series” field and instead sends out the earliest book in this series not marked as “Has Had” UNLESS a book in this series is already in the Service Queue or a pending order, in which case Nightly will skip this title and series.

See Option 2, except that the frequency of a series being sent is gated by the length of the service queue, rather than the frequency the queue is refilled.  If the patron’s service queue is 30 books long, you know there will be at least 30 books between each book in a series.  However, this makes more sense for long running series than for short trilogies.  I could see wanting to have different behaviors based on the length of the series, but that is getting complicated to keep track of.  Keep in mind, this only applies to Subject and possibly Author.  Books selected by Series, Request or Reserve would not have this same gating.

3b) “Not this book, but this series, but not too often, and picking up where I left off”

  • When nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “Series” field and instead sends out the next book after the highest number book in the series marked as “Has Had”, or book 1 if the patron has not read any books in the series.  UNLESS a book in this series is already in the service queue or a pending order, in which case nightly will skip this title and series.

Like 2b, this option just differentiates between filling in the gaps in a series or continuing from the highest numbered book a patron has read.


Option 4

4) “This book and this entire series”

  • When nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the “Series” field and queues all unread books in that series.

This could work well for shorter series, especially trilogies with a tight story, but would create a very hit-or-miss situation when dumping an entire 20+ book series.  As with 2b, I worry that having a cutoff point for different behaviors would create confusion and unexpected outcomes.  I think it would be possible to catalog our way out of this problem, flagging series as either a tight story or as episodic/procedural, but that isn’t something every library, including NM, could commit to.  This rule would also need to differentiate between sequence 0 books (which are often more a collection and less a series) and numbered series. 

Practically, I don’t think this could work as the default option given the sheer quantity of long-running series, but I could see this as an alternative that specific patrons would want to opt-in to.


Option 5

5) “Just care about what is in the Queue now”

  • When Nightly picks a title by Subject, it checks the Service Queue for any books in the same Series.  If another book in the queue is in the same Series and has a higher Series Sequence, the new book is placed ahead of the book already in the queue, rather than at the end.

Basically, if Nightly is trying to add book 2, and book 3 is already in the queue, book 2 is slotted just ahead of book 3, rather than at the end of the queue.  This would only address the issue of patrons being sent books out of order in immediate proximity, such as when several books in a series are added at once by the NLS.  Limited potential help but also limited potential harm.


So what option (listed above or something else entirely) would you want?  

A big consideration is do we want this to be patron-by-patron?  Or do we want it to be library-wide?  And what do we want to be the default behavior vs. the opt-in behavior?  Should this apply only to Subject selections, or Author as well?

Personally, I’m in favor of option 3b “Not this book, but this series, but not too often”.  I think it addresses the core problem of books being sent out of order while avoiding any big drawbacks.  It isn’t perfect, and will be clunky for short series, but that’s what Author Preferences and Reader Advisors are for.  That said, I’m sure there are all sorts of circumstances I’m not accounting for that should be considered.

What are your thoughts?  How, exactly, do you want Nightly to be series smart?

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7 months 3 weeks ago #1136 by jrothstein
1B sounds perfect!!! That would be so helpful. (Also I don't really understand any of the other options, but 1b sounds both easiest and perfect to me)

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7 months 3 weeks ago #1137 by epawlus
Replied by epawlus on topic Getting Smart about Series
I think my favorites are the bookends. From Option 1, I perked up at this: "However, if KLAS also adds the ability to customize Nightly Functions by Serve Code, you could create an “AutoSelect No Sequels” serve code and an “AutoSelect All” serve code and select the appropriate one for each patron."

At the beginning of service, a patron would likely default to AutoSelect All. Then, for those who want the newest books and greet a later book in a series as a welcome surprise and an opportunity to start from the beginning, we can add the series preference. For those who contact the library and prefer to always receive the first in a series, they can be switched to AutoSelect No Sequels.

I also like Option 5 for making sure that all series are in order without RA intervention...because how likely is it that the stars will align in such a way that the RA will just happen to be in the record and catch it in time? But...even better? If KLAS can look at the service queue and go "Oops, this is a subject preference and there's already another book in the same series here. We don't know if the person actually likes this author. TOSS."

My slight concern about whisking a patron away to the first book in a series for a subject preference is the quality of that earlier recording. While the analog born books are great to have in the collection, some are of lesser quality than recently produced books. I would want to make sure the person actually stated an interest in reading them. It's less likely that a brand new book would be in a long running series and encounter that problem, but RC wasn't SO long ago. Or it was, and I'm old. :)

Thanks for the discussion! Looking forward to hearing what others think.

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7 months 3 weeks ago #1138 by Lori Brown
I like 1B and think that if a patron wants more of the series, they will notify us to get the rest of the series.

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7 months 2 weeks ago #1144 by tkalber
Replied by tkalber on topic Getting Smart about Series
I agree with others that Option 1B sounds good and would probably be the easiest to implement.

 

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7 months 1 week ago #1145 by SamLundberg
A big thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far!
I just wanted to follow up with a secondary question. Since there is a lot of interest in 1b, would you want that to be the default behavior for all patrons? Or do you want that to be something the library has to turn on for each patron? I actually really like Erin's idea (call it 5b?) of autoselect refusing to add a second book in a series based on subject. I could absolutely imagine setting that as the default behavior for all patrons with other series behaviors available to opt-in.

I am a bit worried about 1b as a default, just because it will exclude A LOT of books from the major fiction genres. For established patrons, especially those who order from the TBT and use autoselect as a backup, 1b sounds perfect. But imagine a new patron fresh into the program. They have no HasHads, so 1a and 1b are the same, excluding a large number of books from the most popular authors. 400 of the 707 mysteries added this year are sequence 2 or greater & 287 of 744 romances.

What I'm hearing, though, is that there isn't any excitement to go back in time with autoselect and pick up series from the beginning. This is a bit surprising, as I'm personally just fine using longevity as a stand-in for quality and many of these series are our most popular books. But the comment about the difference in audio quality as you go back in time is an important one.

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7 months 1 week ago #1146 by tkalber
Replied by tkalber on topic Getting Smart about Series
I think as with all options, this needs to be something that can be personalized for each patron. We have a lot of patrons who love auto-select and the variety it gives them. They find new authors they wouldn't have considered if choosing their own books. Many of these patrons call us to get the entire series if they really liked a particular book So we wouldn't want to exclude a bunch of series titles from those patrons.

But we'd have the option to turn on the feature for those patrons who are adamant about not receiving series out of order. I guess it would be like adding a Sequel subject code, but not having to worry about finding books in series and manually adding the code to each record.

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7 months 1 week ago #1147 by Lori Brown
I think adding the Sequel subject code is a great idea!

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7 months 3 days ago #1149 by maureen
Replied by maureen on topic Getting Smart about Series
We are also going back in time to add books that were previously local produced and not on BARD, and are finding the quality is not as high as it is now. We are focused on stand alone, Florida novels. I will add a different thread on this, but wanted to thank Erin for pointing this out! :)

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