An Indiana-based startup whose founders worked out of a Columbus co-working space are testing a new library app locally that lets patrons explore library offerings through their voice.

Ganesh Gandhieswaran and Gopinath Jaganmohan, who created the startup Thickstat, have created a free app called LIBRO that is available to Bartholomew County Library patrons for use on smartphones or through Amazon’s Echo and other voice assistant technology.

LIBRO allows local library users to access their library account information through voice commands through their cellphone or voice-activated virtual assistant, Gandhieswaran said.

Through LIBRO, patrons can search for books, place a hold to obtain a book, and find out where you might be on a hold list while waiting for a book, said Jason Hatton, library director.

“Aside from the coolness factor, it will help people think more about the library,” Hatton said.

Gandhieswaran, who has lived in Columbus for 14 years and had a career with a locally based technology firm, and Jaganmohan, a technical expert, teamed to work as a software solutions company last year, deciding to pursue what would be the next generation of technology using smartphones and the new virtual assistant technology.

“The next generation is talking to your computer,” Gandhieswaran said. “We are trying to bridge the gap between computers and humans.”

In building a conversational intelligence platform, Gandhieswaran said the goal was to allow a human voice to ask something of the computer, and have the computer understand who you are, whether you are authorized to have the information and then to provide it to you by finding it within the system or database.

As the two were working on the app, Gandhieswaran was talking with his son who wanted to go the library, and they started talking about the possibility of a voice-based system of getting information about the availability of books or other library offerings.

“We have an Alexa — and we have noticed kids are really talking to these systems,” he said.

So Ganhieswaran and Jaganmohan met with Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, and worked in the co-working space Fish Tank to come up with the app for the county library.

Hatton said the library helped the two entrepreneurs with the app, and in exchange, are putting it in the test-mode at the library now to see where it goes.

The library has a link to LIBRO on its website and hopes to get some attention and use of the app to determine what patrons think of this new opportunity. Patrons need to have a current library card and account login to access LIBRO.

As library director, Hatton has been focusing on embracing technology, including adding a digital maker space to the library, offering e-books and computer coding classes.

“We are hoping that this will further integrate the library into people’s daily lives,” Hatton said.

For more information

LIBRO is available for Android and Apple phones in their app stores under BCPL LIBRO.

A link is also available on the Bartholomew County Library’s website.

For more information on Thickstat, visit thickstat.com.

Learn how to use LIBRO

The Bartholomew County Library is planning two sessions on using the BCPL LIBRO Voice App.

When: 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, and Thursday, April 5

Sessions led by: Ganesh Gandhieswaran from Thickstat and reference librarian Tyler Munn.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.