Auckland Libraries boldly goes where no book has gone before

Last Updated : 27 Sep 2017

We all know how much of a struggle it can be to find a good book when we’re juggling too many choices.

To help make book lovers' decisions easier, a group of young digital innovators are trialling an interactive computer application that can recommend books based on an individual’s emotions, the time of day, and the weather.

The trial is running at the Central City Library until 30 September.

We chat to one of the developers, University of Auckland student Jamie McDonald, about his project.


Tell us a bit about your background and how this unique project came about.

There’s a team of us from Auckland University who have been working together on interactive and AI technology for a while. We’re always looking for projects that make people happier in small, everyday ways and thought book selection would be a cool idea with which to experiment. Finding the right book for your mood can be tricky – the book you feel like reading in the sun at lunch is totally different from when you need cheering up on a rainy evening. Hopefully this project will help with that!

What can visitors expect when they use the interactive screen?

It’s super simple. The screen is already set up in the library when visitors come in on the ground floor, so they can just head over, hit the giant red button, and then pause for a photo to identify their mood. The book recommendation will then pop up on the screen.

So far, the library has uploaded 40 books from the basement collection onto the application and is adding another 40 soon. There are some great books that people often miss like Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway and Knitting for Dogs by Kristi Porter. The trial should introduce a new way of book hunting and people can discover titles they might have otherwise overlooked.

Big Red Button.jpg

Why did you choose Auckland Libraries to test this technology?

The library is an awesome space to experiment and get creative. This is the first time we’ve trialled the screen in public and it’s great to do it in an environment where it’s ok if things don’t go flawlessly the first time and you have room to tweak things. Plus it’s the perfect place to give Aucklanders the chance to try out something new. 

What’s your top tip for getting a really personalised book recommendation?

Make your emotions as clear as possible in the photo, the more you give it the more information the program can collect. You’ll also get the most interesting result when you’re in an unusual mood or it’s a weird time of day. So if you’re feeling hyper at 9am during a thunderstorm pop over then!

Head along to the ground floor of Auckland Central City Library to give the interactive screen a go before the trial ends this weekend.

Find out more about upcoming events and activities at Auckland Libraries

Back to News