Sno-Isle Libraries

Catalog data empowers readers and promotes cross-departmental collaboration

At a Glance

Sno-Isle Libraries
Marysville, WA

Institution Type:   Public Libraries
Related Products:   NoveList Select

sno isle success story image


Tucked between the Cascade and Olympic Mountains in Marysville, WA, you'll find Sno-Isle Libraries. Jessica Russell is the Assistant Director of Collection Services of the 23 community libraries (plus library on wheels) public library system that serves Snohomish and Island counties, a population of about 800,000 people. The communities range from suburban (Lynnwood, located just 16 miles north of Seattle) to rural (the small mountain town of Darrington, where you can see a glacier from the library's parking lot!). There are also five locations on Whidbey Island.

The location of Sno-Isle Libraries makes some of its challenges and operations unique. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in wildfire activity in the area. The mountainous landscape of the Sno-Isle Libraries community makes internet access difficult. The library is a key community partner as it is often the best option for residents to access Wi-Fi. That also means physical materials may be dwindling in interest in other places — items like DVDs and physical audiobooks — still circulate well in this library community. 

While English is the primary language used by patrons of Sno-Isle Libraries, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean are also widely used in this increasingly diverse community. Between the rapidly changing community and the 60th anniversary of the system, 2023 promises to be an exciting year at Sno-Isle Libraries. 

Empowering readers with NoveList Select

Readers' advisory is not always intuitive. Jessica reflected on her time in library school and having been enrolled in a readers' advisory course where she had that "aha!" moment of Ohhh…here are the words for the things I know I like. "Having that vocabulary is really powerful,” said Jessica. “I like character-driven sci-fi, but I've learned that I don't love plot-driven sci-fi in the same way."  

"Part of readers' advisory work is sometimes giving folks a framework and some vocabulary to enable them to ask questions that are better structured to get them the response they are looking for. Folks now have this information at their fingertips, but even more importantly, they're learning more about how to ask for what they want."

Jessica Russell
Assistant Director of Collection Services
Sno-Isle Libraries

Of course, the majority of library customers have not attended library school. "Having a resource that provides read-alikes and additional information about books is great. It helps customers who understand exactly what they are looking for, and it's a wonderful learning tool for folks who may not be as familiar with readers' advisory language."

"Part of readers' advisory work is sometimes giving folks a framework and some vocabulary to enable them to ask questions that are better structured to get them the response they are looking for," said Jessica. "Folks now have this information at their fingertips, but even more importantly, they're learning more about how to ask for what they want."

Using the Analytics Dashboard

Jessica checks the data on the NoveList Select Analytics Dashboard every month. "The more information you have about your community's interests, the better," said Jessica. She finds these monthly check-ins helpful to pause and ask: How are we doing? Are people finding what they're looking for? And what kind of insights can we glean? 

These regular check-ins can also provide learning moments for Jessica. "If a title or an author shows up that I'm unfamiliar with, I usually take it as an opportunity to do some research. A lot of times, it's something that is up on TikTok or Facebook or one of those spaces. And that's a great insight. Sometimes those things might pass me by."

Recently, Jessica was checking the monthly data report and noticed there had been a lot of searches for Louis L'Amour. This was surprising as Westerns don't often make the top trends each month. But here was L'Amour, at the top of the list. She leveraged this interesting data point by creating a curated Westerns collection in Overdrive, which performed very well. "I think the cross-functional nature of this information is exciting. It captures what our customers are thinking about."

"The more information you have about your community's interests, the better."

Jessica Russell
Assistant Director of Collection Services
Sno-Isle Libraries

"By and large, it doesn't usually tap into things we don't have in our collection," said Jessica. "We do see a lot of the same kinds of searches like people looking for James Patterson, David Baldacci, Nora Roberts, or Kristen Hannah — this is not surprising, and we're automatically going to purchase. But you do see those authors shuffle around at different times. And the real gift is the unexpected, something bubbling up that is surprising or you didn't know about."

Putting the data to work

Creating and encouraging cross-departmental collaboration has consistently been a goal for Jessica in her time at Sno-Isle Libraries. She meets monthly with a cross-functional Overdrive Curation team comprised of collection development librarians, frontline staff, and other critical stakeholders from the library organization. In these meetings, she shares the data from NoveList Select, and as a group, they discuss what kinds of collections and activities they might plan and pull together in the coming month. 

The marketing team at Sno-Isle Libraries has also made use of the Analytics Dashboard. For example, if there is a social media post or an email promoting a particular title, they can see their impact in reaching people with an uptick in clicks in the NoveList Select data.

"It's cool to see correlations, like how do things like popular media-tied book clubs or lists drive what people come to the library for?" said Jessica. "Sometimes you see it is really impactful, and then other times people are focused on the things that feel comfortable and familiar to them. I think that's another interesting use of that information." 

Getting started with NoveList Select

If you're new to NoveList Select, Jessica has some tips to share to make the most out of your subscription:

  1. Pay attention to the numbers: "The reports are really meant to highlight the areas of interest," said Jessica. She shared while there aren't usually any major shocks in the numbers from month to month, she finds value in checking regularly. "When James Patterson drops out of the number one spot, what pushed it out?” 
  2. Stay connected: One way Jessica has found to stay connected to the Analytics Dashboard data was to subscribe to the NoveList Select Monthly newsletter. "There is always so much going on; I use the newsletter as my reminder to log in and check the data," said Jessica.  
  3. Attend a live training: It's easy for library staff to become so busy they lose sight of some of the tools available to them, even the ones that make their jobs easier. NoveList offers a quarterly NoveList Select training. Jessica's advice? Schedule a refresh. It's always a good idea to brush off those skills and see what's new in the product. 

Lastly, Jessica wants to remind you (and herself) to ask questions. Whether that's when meeting with library customers or cross-departmental teammates, while reflecting on the month's data, or attending a NoveList Select training, there is always learning to do when helping people find their next great read. 

Ready to learn more about NoveList Select?