Personalized Reading Lists
By: Audrey Swartz, librarian, and Allie Lousch, community engagement lead.
Are you enjoying the cooler weather? I am. With the temps dropping back into the acceptable-to-be-outside range, I start thinking about laying in my hammock reading — being outside with a good book. As I mentioned in my last article, “Mostly Harmless” published August 12, 2023, it can be hard to narrow down what to read. There are so many books and so very little time to decide. Manhattan Public Library has a solution! Have you heard of personalized reading lists, lovingly referred to as “PRLs”?
PRLs are a wonderful way to access new books without having to do the legwork. These librarian-created personalized reading lists offer the opportunity to explore new genres, authors and even new formats.
We currently have two ways to fill out your personalized reading list request; you can complete one online or in person. To locate the online form, you will need to first go to our website at mhklibrary.org. Click on “Recommendations,” which is located directly under the catalog search box. This will take you to our “Books & More” page.
If you haven’t explored this corner of the web, now is a great time! You can browse our digital library, submit a PRL, sign up for our e-newsletters and take advantage of our subscription to “Novelist Plus.” Once you’ve finished exploring, click back to the “Personalized Reading List” option, https://mhklibrary.org/personalized-reading-list-2/, and begin to fill out your form.
If you prefer a paper option, you’ll find physical forms located near each service desk. When you complete a physical form, write as neatly as possible and make sure to return it to the Reference Desk, located on the second floor.
Once the reference librarians receive requests, we begin the process of building your reading list. Your request will be thoroughly reviewed and we will develop a list of 12-14 books based off of the information you gave, so please be thorough. You will receive your list of recommendations, along with a feedback form, within two weeks. I encourage you to complete the feedback form and to continue to request lists as you want or need them.
Allie here with a happy PRL anecdote. At the end of June, I received my “Handpicked for Allie” reading list of “A Girl Returned” by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, “Costalegre” by Courtney Maum, “Bunny” by Mona Awad, and “Ask Again, Yes” by Mary Beth Keane. Each book was considered “people focused” and “thoughtful.” Three of the books were categorized as “plot focused.”
As a bonus, the email included a link to an upcoming Library Event — a StoryWalk® Downtown — the recommending librarian thought I might like. I did enjoy the book, “Maybe Something Beautiful” for the story, community focus and striking colors.
Of the four recommended books, I read two, “A Girl Returned” and “Costalegre.” They both occur in far-flung places and feature girls who navigate extraordinary lives without the benefit of mothers. “A Girl Returned” is placed in Italy and “Costalegre” is a novel inspired by Peggy Gugenheim and her daughter. In “Costalegre” the reader meets artists and a motley band of Hitler’s most wanted “degenerate artists.” Each character has clay feet and at least one glimmer of care for others. I was so delighted and challenged by these books, I had to find out and thank who recommended them. Though I haven’t yet read “Ask Again, Yes,” I will.
In this recommendation, I felt nourished by beautiful stories and the reminder I am a part of a community that sees books with difficult stories are worth keeping.
Curious? Follow Audrey’s “How to P-R-L” instructions above and let us know what you think.
Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at mhklibrary.org.