Libraries are a rich source of valuable information, but sometimes the sheer volume of materials they hold can be overwhelming even to the most experienced researcher. Sometimes what library users crave the most it a recommendation from a contemporary, a peer, colleagues or academic tutors. The SALT, (Surfacing the Academic Long Tail), Project aims to provide libraries with the ability to provide you with that information. Similar to Amazons, ‘customers who bought this item also bought….’ the recommenders on this system will appear on a local library catalogue and on Copac and will be based on circulation data which has been gathered over the past 10 years at Manchester University’s internationally renowned research library. What the SALT project wants to find out is; will researchers in the field of humanities benefit from receiving book recommendations? Will the users go beyond the reading list and be exposed to rare and niche collections? Will collections in the library, previously undervalued and underused find a new appreciative audience? Will researchers see new links in their studies, possibly in other disciplines? And as a result could this improve the quality of research, improve grades and advance knowledge? The users of libraries are not the only beneficiaries of this project. By highlighting rarer collections, valuing niche items and bringing to the surface less popular but nevertheless worthy materials; libraries will have the leverage they need to ensure the preservation of these rich materials.
Over the next six months the SALT project will build a recommender prototype. It will be tested on the University of Manchester’s own local library catalogue and also to a national audience on Copac. The project is indebted to the previous knowledge acquired by a similar project at the University of Huddersfield and the SALT project will work closely with colleagues at Huddersfield to take this concept to the next level. Users and librarians will be invited to try the prototype and feedback their thoughts to developers. By working collaboratively with other institutions and Research Libraries UK, the SALT project will advance our knowledge and understanding of how best to support research in the 21st century.