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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Book Butler helps readers explore new options

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Readers who are interested in finding a new book to enjoy with a little bit of mystery thrown in can try the Book Butler program offered by the Spokane County Library District.

Library users can fill out an online form requesting books in a specific genre or on a specific topic and the staff at their local library will browse the shelves for books they think the person will enjoy.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said librarian Alison Johnson, who works at the North Spokane Library.

It can also be a lot of fun for the reader, who doesn’t know what books will be selected for them to explore.

The Book Butler program got its start in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We started it in July 2020 during a time when we didn’t have customers in the building,” Johnson said.

Many library users like to browse the shelves, looking for new books to explore. But when the libraries were closed to the public, that wasn’t an option.

“We were trying to fill that need,” she said.

The service is available for adult and children’s books. Anyone with a SCLD card can use the service, even those who live inside the city of Spokane.

An online form is available at www.scld.org/book-butler for people to fill out to request books. People can indicate whether they want an audio book, regular book or large print and where they want to pick up the books. There are text boxes where they can give information about what type of book they want to read as well as what type of book they don’t want to read.

“We try to get as much information as we can,” Johnson said. “The form is pretty open to what the customer wants to tell us. People can be as detailed, or not, as they like.”

The library district automatically tracks what books are selected for repeat users unless the user opts out of that portion of the service. Tracking the books ensures that titles aren’t selected for the same customer more than once, Johnson said.

It’s fun to select books for a reader in a genre she’s familiar with, Johnson said, but it’s also interesting to research an unfamiliar genre in order to select books for someone.

“All of our librarians really enjoy doing the service,” she said.

The librarians will choose between three and six books per order. It generally takes a few days to gather the requested books, Johnson said. The books are placed on hold and the customer is notified that the books are ready to be picked up.

The service, which customers can use twice a month, is available at each of the libraries in the district. The books checked out through Book Butler can be borrowed for up to a month.

“It’s a great service, especially for parents who are looking for new books for their kids,” Johnson said.

While use of the Book Butler program has declined somewhat since it was launched, it remains popular, she said.

“It was very well used when we first presented it when people couldn’t come in and browse for themselves,” she said.

Though people can now browse the shelves themselves, the Book Butler program serves people who can’t make it to the library.

Nina Culver can be reached at nculver47@gmail.com.

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