The Bohemian Bookshelf

Supporting Serendipitous Book Discoveries through Information Visualization
The Visualizations of the Bohemian Bookshelf

The Bohemian Bookshelf

The Bohemian Bookshelf is an information visualization that was designed to facilitate open- ended exploration of digital library collections and serendipitous book discoveries. This project is a collaboration between Alice Thudt, Uta Hinrichs and Sheelagh Carpendale from the InnoVis Group of the University of Calgary.

Strolling through a library or a book store can be a very rewarding experience especially when we discover intriguing books that we were not looking for initially. However, common digital interfaces for library catalogues are more geared toward targeted search rather than open-ended explorations of books. They require the input of a search term before they display a list of books that match the query. This can be a problematic starting point when we don’t exactly know what we are looking for but just want to casually browse through a book collection and be inspired.

With the Bohemian Bookshelf our intention was to create a digital parallel to the open- ended "browsing the shelves" experience that has been shown to encourage serendipitous discoveries in libraries or bookstores. The Bohemian Bookshelf consists of five interlinked visualizations, each providing a different perspective on the book collection. The visualizations represent the aesthetic and tangible qualities of books such as cover colour and page count, temporal aspects such as publication year and content era, as well as content data such as keywords and books’ author. By providing a variety of perspectives on books, we aim to provide different access points to the collection and to encourage a playful, open-ended yet pleasurable approach to book exploration.

Browsing through one of the visualizations highlights books that are adjacent to each other (e.g. books that share similar keywords or focus on similar time spans), inviting people to check out new books of potential interest. The five visualizations are also interlinked, encouraging visitors to branch off from their current exploration path and to explore the book collection from a new perspective.

The Bohemian Bookshelf is intended to be installed on a library website, alongside the common digital search catalogue, or at the library itself on a large touch interactive display.

You can find our Bohemian Bookshelf prototype here and explore our small sample book collection.

More information about this project can be found in the following publications:

Alice Thudt, Uta Hinrichs and Sheelagh Carpendale. The Bohemian Bookshelf: Supporting Serendipitous Book Discoveries through Information Visualization
In CHI 2012: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (10 pages)

Talk at CHI 2012: Slides

Alice Thudt. The Bohemian Bookshelf: Design and Implementation of a Visualization Prototype for Serendipitous Browsing
Project Thesis 2011 (38 pages)

The Bohemian Bookshelf at the library