by Stacey Chandler, Reference Archivist
Here in the research room at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library we often get emails from students and scholars asking about books that might be helpful for their research topics. Until very recently, our solution was to email lists of books to our researchers, which they could print and use to find useful books at their local library or bookstore.
In honor of 2014 National Library Week, we started thinking about a way to make this process easier and more fun for our researchers (and our archivists!) and GoodReads, the social networking site for bookworms, is a perfect fit. You can visit our brand-new page here: https://www.goodreads.com/JFK_Library
GoodReads allows readers – even those who aren’t GoodReads members – to read book summaries and reviews written by both casual readers and scholars, and to see bookstores and libraries nearby that carry the book. Readers may also browse “Lists,” which can be edited by anyone in the GoodReads community, and other members’ “Bookshelves,” which can only be edited by the member who created the shelf.
Quite a few public libraries are already on GoodReads as “groups,” but we’re using our account a little differently because we want readers to see lists of books that we use to answer the thousands of questions we get each year. That’s why we joined as a member, rather than a group, and we’re using subject-based bookshelves (like JFK and the Media: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/30412750?shelf=jfk-and-media) to keep track of books that we’ve found helpful for our work at the library. The shelves, which you can see fully listed on our main page, complement our archival collections and show the wide range of topics we can answer questions about.
New books about John F. Kennedy are released all the time, and we’ll be adding them to our shelves as we read and use them. In creating these lists, we realized that some topics (JFK and Civil Rights: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/30412750-john-f-kennedy-presidential-library?order=a&shelf=jfk-and-civil-rights) have been so popular that we couldn’t even try to read them all, while other topics (JFK and Sports: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/30412750-john-f-kennedy-presidential-library?order=a&shelf=jfk-and-sports) were more sparse.
This project has helped us to realize that we’d love to see more work on President Kennedy’s economic policies and involvement in the arts, as well as more comprehensive biographies of the President’s cabinet members and advisors like Stewart Udall and Ted Sorensen. We’re hoping our lists will also help researchers to take note of topics that have been thoroughly covered or relatively neglected by historians – and maybe contribute a book or two to our shelves in the future!
We’re also updating existing records in GoodReads to make them more helpful for all readers. For example, we’re adding links to online versions of useful publications (like the essential Foreign Relations of the United States volumes: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6188868-foreign-relations-of-the-united-states-1961-1963-volume-iv) and adding verified citations for popular John F. Kennedy quotations (see our handiwork here: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/97961-conformity-is-the-jailer-of-freedom-and-the-enemy-of).
Because we’re also home to the world’s largest collection of Ernest Hemingway’s papers, we’re planning to expand our Hemingway-related shelves and to update bibliographic records and Hemingway quotations to be as accurate as possible.
Find us on GoodReads and our other social media sites, including Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JFKLibrary), Twitter (https://twitter.com/jfklibrary), Instagram (http://instagram.com/jfklibrary), Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/jfklibrary/), Tumblr (http://jfklibrary.tumblr.com/), and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/JFKLF).