Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Promoting the Library by Using Technology

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Promoting the Library by Using Technology

Article excerpt

When my editor advised me about the topic of the September issue, I began pondering how my column could fit with the issue's theme--and the answer was just too obvious. What can you do to promote your library through technology? Just do in digital form what you (or if you are too young, your predecessors) had been doing to keep patrons happy back in the pre-Internet era. Get to know what your patrons need, make their contact with the library pleasant and efficient, and pamper those who deserve it. All the while save money for more books, journals, and database subscriptions, and save blood, sweat, and tears by deploying technology. I'll illustrate this with two examples: acquisition and interlibrary loan.

Ease Acquisition Tasks

Let's look at how information technology can directly and indirectly promote your library in the various stages of acquisition.

Making Your Wish Lists

Find information about forthcoming books, then create a list of potentially interesting titles, post it on a page in an easy topical arrangement, and link to it from the library's home page. Post it in a way that patrons can cast a vote if they feel compelled to do so. You say that you don't have $300 to subscribe to the print version of R.R. Bowker's Forthcoming Books? And you don't have the time to photocopy pages, then cut and paste them? But subscribing to the digital version is out of question? Never mind.

The best digital bookstores spoil you rotten for free, giving you more than Bowker ever really did, even for a fee. To wit, try this. Go to Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com) to see what you find about, say, digital libraries (to stay in my area of specialization). Amazon.com offers the option to sort the results in backward chronological order to display the forthcoming and most current books first. Among the forthcoming titles you will find Cornell professor WilliamArms' excellent book in a paperback edition, scheduled to be published this month, at half the price of the hardcover edition, plus a 20-percent discount. Put it in your Amazon.com wish list. If you create a user ID for the major collection areas of your library, then your wish lists become instant databases for the specific discipline or sub-discipline, and you can let others look at them and send you comments. Library schools taught about the old-fashioned way of creating a list of items desired but not yet ordered. This digital version is muc h mightier.

You may prefer to do the same on barnesandnoble.com (http://www.bn.com), which has the same or similar functionality for sorting results and creating wish lists as Amazon.com, and often better prices. This is not true for Borders.com, another popular Web store for books, music, and videos. Powells.com has a much smaller collection, does not sort the resuits by publication year, and does not offer the elegant wish list feature (although it has a shopping bag). Therefore I don't recommend these last two.

Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com are also the best for in-print and out-of-print titles, and they offer the best premium information, such as tables of contents and editorial reviews (along with readers' reviews that I don't really crave, although some of them are informative). For my sample search, Amazon found 72 books about digital libraries; barnesandnoble.com checked in with 68 results; Books In Print (including also out-of-print records) returned 51 records; Powells.com had 15. Borders had 88 results but most of them were irrelevant, discussing digital receivers and digital transmission in the Artech House Library series that is part of the title, and the software does not allow exclusion of words (such as +digital +libraries-Artech). When the search was limited to the title field to provide a level playing field, Amazon returned 34 books, barnesandnoble.com had 32, and Books In Print had 29.

Pricing Your Purchases

When it comes to ordering books, once again there are Web software tools that can make your budget go much farther, by shedding 20 percent to 30 percent here and there. …

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