Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Checklists for the Distributed Librarian

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Checklists for the Distributed Librarian

Article excerpt

It's an interesting time to be a librarian. At the same time that information is becoming atomized and zipping around the world at faster and faster speeds, we are discovering that our "localness" is what's being valued and, to some extent, funded. How do we remain loyal to our funding sources as we learn to be in many places at the same time?

With very few exceptions, the "librarian" designation roots us to one place, to one funding source, to one community; and yet our skills are in demand worldwide. Every patron interaction we have that is not face to face expands our reach and also muddles our recordkeeping. For smaller libraries, having to choose just which services to provide at what cost is one of the larger questions of 21st-century librarianship.

These checklists are my professional opinion of what other features a library should have or should think about obtaining. Ask yourself these questions. See the resource links for more information and how-to's.

The Website

The website is the public face of the library. At the very least, your library should have a web presence; at the most, a library website can be a virtual branch or point of presence for interacting with patrons who rarely come to the library.

1. Can I and do I change the library website to reflect current events, new programs at the library, and/or breaking library news, e.g., snow/weather closures? Even small updates can be the difference between letting people know important news and seeming nonresponsive. Twitter can help with this; so can calendaring software that outputs RSS feeds such as RSSCalendar.

2. Do I have login and server information for the library's website and/or content management system in case I need to give it to IT staffor web developers?

3. Does the main page of our library website have the library's hours, contact information, and locations (including state)?

4. Can patrons click a link to get directions to the library, or is the address copyable as a single line to facilitate patrons getting directions themselves?

5. Can patrons contact a library or staff member via mail, phone, email, instant message (IM), short message service (SMS), or other methods? Lichen Rancourt has described the short steps she took to make a Contact Me page with photo and "IM Me" functionality. Many libraries are also making use of the "265010 hack," which allows cell phone users to SMS directly to an AIM account.

6. Can new patrons sign up for a library card online? The state of Kansas allows people to sign up for a fully functional temporary card just by filling in a short form online.

7. Does your library have a mobile version of your website?

8. Can you track statistics on your website to see which pages are popular and which are not? And can you adjust the site accordingly? (See this column in the January 2008 issue.)

9. For any content that is updated regularly, is it clear how patrons can subscribe using RSS?

10. Can patrons find our library by searching Google for our library name? Do they find our library in Google when searching for our town and the word library? Is our library listed in Wikipedia?

The Library Catalog

The library catalog is the place where people ask the most "library questions," even if the questions are simply, "Do you have this item? If so, where?" Many people interact with the OPAC from outside the library, trying to determine whether or not they should come in. We want to know if the OPAC is working as well as it can and, if not, what we can do to improve it. Of course, individual projects will be vendor-specific, but starting with a wish list, along with an idea of what is possible, is useful. …

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