Today, 4 November 2020, Turku City Library publishes a new type of online service. Åbok (which went by the name "Book-Tinder" during processing), is an online service that helps the library's customers find new and interesting reading and provides the opportunity to browse the shelves virtually.

Check out Åbok: 

Åbok gives the user a stream of books to choose from, even solely on the basis of the book cover. The online service also shows on the floor plan of the main library, in which shelf the book is located. Åbok is the first book recommendation service in Finland that provides the opportunity to browse shelves virtually.

Libraries have had book recommendation services before, but Åbok approaches the matter in a different way. “I am waiting with great interest to see how the service is received and what kind of feedback comes from customers”, says information specialist Aki Pyykkö who is involved in the project.


Book tips for customers, visual data for staff

The online service is based on general anonymous loan data. When an Åbok user swipes his favorites in a book basket, the algorithm compares the choices with loan data. When the user makes his choices, the underlying recommendation algorithm begins to refine its recommendations to suit the user's preferences.

Behind Åbok's recommendations is a huge amount of data on loans, which has been collected over the years. This information is processed completely anonymously, i.e. no personal data is processed. Instead, the algorithm looks for connections between books, for example if book Y is borrowed more often than book Z at the same time as book X.

For library staff, the online service also provides useful, visualized information. Through Åbok, a heat map of what material is moving in the library is created. In this way, the library will have new information-based tools to manage collections and consider how to get material from "cold shelves" to be borrowed more.

Kaisa Hypén, service manager for the library's collections, hopes that Åbok will provide the library with tools for assessing how the placement of materials and various book tips affect loans and reading.

- When the service has been in use for a while, loan statistics can be used to see if the recommendations in it have affected the loans. Or if customers have found new reading in such shelves that they previously only have passed by.

Developing Åbok into a complete service has been a multi-step project. The online service is a project financed by the Regional State Administrative Agency in Southwestern Finland and implemented by Gispositio Oy.