ZooBean, based in Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices, has launched Beanstack with the library. The program takes the preferences of each child — “like ninjas, princess or even math and science,” the app’s promotional video explains — and the child’s reading level, and an Arlington librarian recommends books in the catalog that apply.
Each book recommendation also comes with a brief learning tip, ZooBean co-founder Felix Lloyd told ARLnow.com. This could be culling a few vocabulary words from the book to review.
“In many ways, the end user is the parent,” Lloyd said. “A lot of it is about their having a good place to start when it comes to their kid. The way we view it is with a lot of things going on in today’s world, it’s hard to have the confidence that there’s good content and you know how to use it in a way to accelerate their reading, to give them a better place to start in school.”
The app is free and available to any Arlington resident. B0oks available electronically can be downloaded immediately, and those available by hard copy can be reserved and sent to the family’s local branch. Beanstack makes a recommendation for a different book every week, and always reading material that has been approved by a librarian.
“Modern public libraries are constantly looking at the evolving needs of their customers,” Arlington Public Library spokesman Peter Golkin said in an email. “A service like Beanstack takes the knowledge of our children’s librarians, mixes it with proven online ‘matchmaking’ based on the particular child’s interests and puts the results in convenient emails that arrive on a regular basis. If the suggested book is an available ebook in the collection, then you don’t even have to make a trip to the Library.”
The service just launched this month, and Arlington is the second library system to offer it in the country, Lloyd said, following the Sacramento, Calif., library system. Fourteen other library systems have signed on for Beanstack already, including Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard counties in Maryland.
ZooBean got its big break appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank last April, and receiving a $250,000 investment from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Since then, Lloyd said, Cuban has invested even more into the company. The combination of Cuban’s endorsement and Arlington’s early partnership has helped spur the business’ growth.
“Arlington buying our product before it launched was a bet for them,” Lloyd said. “Them buying into the service helped our business, because we could go out and point to this model community that invested. It was a validation of a small business.”