Add a "recommended" status

African Storybook, Storyweavers and other similar websites offer a curated “recommended” status.
Recently BLOOM was being debated as the potential platform for a Pacific Storybooks initiative. In the planning meeting there was a good bit of discussion about the quality issues with BLOOM. When someone spends a lot of time (low connectivity) and money to download a book it can be quite disheartening if it’s poor quality.

Bethann Carlson

@LitBeth thanks for posting this request.

Can you tell us what you mean by “low quality” in this case? I.e., Bloom Library lets you preview the book before downloading. That would seem to rule out mistakenly downloading something you don’t want, except for perhaps image resolution. Is that what was meant by “low quality”? Low image resolution?

Another thing you might mean is that even looking at the pdf isn’t easy when you have internet obstacles. There are several things we could do to help with that. One would involve us compressing the existing pdfs (older Bloom’s made huge pdf files). Another would be some alternative low-bandwidth way of seeing a page or two.

One way to stick to high production-value books is to use Bloom Library’s publisher oriented bookshelves. That way, you can get books from Pratham Books, Africa Storybook Project, and Book Dash, instead of ones that local communities have produced. Would that help in this situation?

One final thought. We have the ability to send SD cards full of all the books on However we don’t have a system for searching them; you just get over a thousand folders to wade through. So another feature request that someone could make and vote on is to provide an interface for navigating a local copy of the books; then you would not have any internet obstacles.

Hi John

Yes, I’ve noticed the new publisher oriented bookshelves and appreciate them.

The problem with the preview is that it also just takes so long to download and you can’t keep working in the meantime.

By quality, those not wanting to use BLOOM for the platform were referring to quality of content–whether the author was writing well/spelling well/telling a good story, and even whether the pictures were good pictures (not resolution). Sometimes people are even uploading just to practice uploading, and you get a picture of someone grinning and it says “shazzam” or something like that.

Pacific Storybooks were planning on curating the content and images of books, and though they will certainly draw from BLOOM as a resource for Pacific Books, the Pacific Area was really hoping that they would actually use BLOOM as their platform. They were intimating that because they would want to be able to recommend the BEST books that authors were uploading, thereby helping potential readers to be discriminating, they liked the idea of a recommended status, and so might not use BLOOM as a platform, but were planning on “white-labeling” books found on BLOOM.

I do realize that one of the things that makes BLOOM so helpful is that anyone CAN upload, and so having a “recommended” would require that someone/s be the recommend-ers. And that could be a tricky question! I’m interested in what others think of the pros and cons of that idea.

I have noticed that the preview of books from the Bloom Library does take a while to download - and there are people with internet connections that are slower than mine. So maybe having compressed PDFs would be helpful. (@JohnHatton, you mentioned maybe having “an alternative low-bandwidth way of seeing a page or too”, but I think people would want to preview the whole book if possible.

BLOOM currently allows anyone to upload books, so it would not be good to add restrictions on who can upload. Adding a “recommended” status may be helpful, but there would need to be some clear guidelines about what makes a book fit into that category and why another book would not. (And this would help the writers too if they have a list of things that will make their book be read by others).

Maybe a “recommended” tag could be added (e.g. in the same way as the language, topics are tags now).

But there needs to be people available as recommend-ers within each language or area.


One option would be for Pacific Storybooks to select the books they want to recommend, then let Bloom Library guide users to those shells. This could be done with a “Recommended by Pacific Storybooks” tag or, conceivably, a new “Recommended by Pacific Storybooks” bookshelf.

picture of someone grinning and it says “shazzam” or something like that

Our Terms of Use state:

if we judge that a book is highly unlikely to be used by the minority languages communities that this site serves, we may remove it.

So if you see a book like you mentioned that somehow we missed, please click on the little flag button and report it to us, and we’ll take it down.

Couldn’t we just recruit a few editors from within the SIL Bloom user community? We’d give them the power to bestow the “Staff Pick” label on books, in the style of the App Store.

It sounds like we’re jumping to technical solutions, but I don’t think they will truly meet the need, and we have an organization full of content experts. Let’s use them! On a similar note, we definitely need a curated set of books to show off Bloom’s features. It’s embarrassing to show Bloom to someone new and to be unable to find sample books that show what it can do.

The issue of curation would be right up @Jeremy_Nordmoe’s alley.

Or perhaps a community “Bloom Librarian” role that has the power to curate,
organize and recommend books and collections.

Warm regards,

Christopher Hirt
Team Manager - Thailand
SIL Language Software Development

I am a literacy instructor at the Canada Institute of Linguistics and each semester I run into this same issue. Many of the books that are in Bloom are poorly written, or poorly illustrated, and I have difficult finding books for my students to download and practice on.
Would it be possible to have a 5-star rating system? Perhaps with comments? I suppose that people might feel hurt if there are negative comments.
Even if there were a couple of volunteer curators who, like LitBeth suggested, who would at least flag the poor quality ones and relegate them to a “pending” section. Then an email could be sent to the uploader with recommendations.
Some of my students even said that they would love to spend a few hours doing this as a way to familiarize themselves with Bloom and its capabilities, while also doing something useful.

Hi Leigh
I’m thinking that a further complication is that each country needs to curate appropriate books for themselves.
So there are some great books at Storyweaver and ASB but most are frustratingly Indian or African for us in Vanuatu. We need culturally relevant books.

Any thoughts on how to deal with that?

Hi Bethann, So great to “see” you on this forum and asking the same questions that I have been. I feel like it boils down to two primary solutions:

  1. Having a better editing process for the people uploading books. This might include a checklist for those uploading books, as well as them sending it to an regional supervisor to look over and say, “Your conclusion could be strengthened by adding a funny twist.” or “These clipart illustrations could match better.”
  2. Another is by having regional writers’ workshops and artist workshops. I did do this and produced some books with illustrations for a Kindergarten curriculum. However, while they did the job, they were not amazing stories. And it is hard to know how more to ask people to hone their books, especially at the beginning, without totally discouraging them. Good writers develop with time and practice and exposure to other good materials.

Hemia nao tingting blong mi. :wink:

I come to this discussion from the point of view of a both a writer and a designer, and am also concerned about quality. I’ve had discussions this week with John Hatton about a few features which should help with design quality. I think that we need to improve the quality of illustrations too.

Perhaps some design guidelines and better templates would make a big difference too. I am working on a presentation teaching four design principles and how they can be applied in Bloom. I will eventually make it into a little book but this will only happen in a year or two.

Just to update folks on our current thinking on this. While a single “recommended” bit would do some good, it wouldn’t be long before people would say something like “Most of the ‘Recommended’ books are in full color, but in my country that’s super expensive. Could we have a flag for Black and White recommended books?” Or people would want a list that made sense in the Pacific, or for pre-readers, or whatever.

Therefore we’re holding out for a generic “Curated Lists” capability, like Amazon had years ago. Any user will be able to make their own lists, and then optionally make them visible to others, hand out URLs to them, etc. We will choose which of these lists to feature prominently.

Meanwhile, we do have a single-bit “featured” list, which is what you see when you first open the library. We don’t have anyone maintaining that, so if someone would like to volunteer, we can set you up.

When I first open the library, I see All Books (i.e. 2165 books), not just the featured list. It’s only when I click on Featured that those appear. So people would need to click on that - it’s not showing automatically when opening the library.

Regarding the Featured list, are their specific criteria that books need to meet? E.g. why is “Grandpa Fish and the Radio” featured and “A Fish and a Gift” not featured? Or maybe that’s what the volunteer who will maintain this would need to determine? (I was asked this question in a recent training - “why are these books featured?”)

Whether it’s a “Recommended” or “Featured” list, I think there’s still going to be people asking for something else.

I see All Books (i.e. 2165 books), not just the featured list.

The first books are those on the Featured list.

I think “curated lists” could be a good solution. We would look for volunteer curators but make sure that they had the knowledge to do a good job. And they would probably have a specialty area–like books in a specific language, or books on a specific topic (like health).