When I received the Brooklyn Public Library’s recent email newsletter promoting a new service called BookMatch, I was both delighted and dismayed.
On the one hand, it was a great idea. All I had to do was fill out a short web form letting the librarians know a bit about what I wanted to read and what I liked to read, and one promised to write back with five personalized recommendations tailored to my interests and tastes. On the other, the fact I was so delighted was exactly what was dismaying.
Clearly, the librarians believe that human tastes and discretion are still relevant, even as automated algorithms are influencing an increasing portion of the media we consume, whether in the form of news, books, music, or movies. But are a book expert’s personalized suggestions really better than what I might get from Amazon, a site that hasn’t employed a human editor for its home page in 14 years? It’s very possible my positive feelings about the BookMatch program are sprung from mere sentimentality.